Skip to main content

Full text of "Recollections of an Irish doctor"

See other formats



i ! 








The author of these reminiscences, Dr. Lombe 
Atthill, a distinguisJied ornament of the medical 
profession in Ireland, was born in 1827 and died, 
suddenly, in 1910. He placed the manuscript oj 
this book in the publishers' hands shortly before 
his death, and the arrangements for its issue have 
been completed by his widow. 





Born ii\ George IV.'s reign My fifth birthday Sir Robert 
Peel Recollections of my father Accession of Queen 
Victoria Rev. Charles Simeon My father takes holy 
orders and is made chaplain to an Irish bishop The 
Irish Channel passage occupies two weeks Ignorance 
of the poor Irish Hedge schoolmasters Deplorable 
state of the Church Church livings as political rewards 
The peace of decay and death in the Church The 
bullet-marked parsonage My father a second Oberlin 
Building the first day school Movement for promot- 
ing Sunday schools My childhood's recollections and my 
father's death The potato famine . . pp. 19 37 



Primitive ploughs Old Irish carts Improving bad roads 
Pillions Beggars on every road A squatter's turf cabin 
Tea versus porridge and milk Establishment of regular 
carriers Farmers without vehicles Peat and manure 
carried in panniers on donkey back Peat the only 
fuel of the West of Ireland Our kitchen arrangements 
Rush-lights and " moulds " What our housekeeping 
meant I see a dying sheep Our Christmas-boxes and 
" mummers " Our butler My friend the coachman 



The pathetic story of our old nurse Departing emigrants 
to America Whiskey and " wailing " Boxty bread 

pp. 3859 


A journey from Ireland to Norwich " The game of the 
road " A wretched crossing A short cut not always 
the shortest way Hospitality of the Norfolk people 
Three meals within three hours My first cricket The 
wretched little steamer The terrible storm of 1839 
"The great wind" I go to school at Maidstone, Kent 
A very roundabout way to get there My school and 
some schoolfellows The incident of the broken windows 
First postage stamps Maidstone Fair The tragic 
story of one of my schoolfellows The Japanese assassin 

pp. 6078 



The headmaster's object in life All classics Caning We 
have play hour but no games I am always behindhand 
The curriculum No French or German Our objec- 
tionable dormitories Our washing bowls Food plenti- 
ful and good, but Tablecloth but no plates for 

breakfast I start a cricket club and issue a challenge 
The moral standard of our school was low The under- 
masters I am apprenticed to a doctor and pass my 
examinations . . . . . . pp. 79 91 



Improvement of Nassau Street Clearing the slums about 
St. Patrick's Cathedral Sir Benjamin Guinness Better 



houses Dublin to Drogheda by rail " Fly " boats on 
the canal A wretched mode of travelling The canal 
Accidents and anecdotes The 'bus in the canal Strange 
method of raising it I take to a tricycle and pitch 
head first into the canal Dublin " Charleys " Outside 
and inside cars The fearsome first bus The last 
sedan-chair First gas lights, bad and few Changes 
Social habits The crinoline period . . pp. 92 103 



Changes caused by the introduction of steam locomotion No 
annual holidays Occasional long visits to friends I have 
no holiday for twenty-five years The price of postage 
prohibitive Abuse of " franking " abolished by penny 
post Shocking railway carriages A " fourth " class 
Luggage arrangements Incidents on the rail I am 
sent to the scene of an accident Potato famine stops 
enterprise The strange story of a 20 note Telegraphs 
Evolution of the Irish newspaper The Saunders' 
Newsletter Freeman's Journal The Daily Express 
Daniel O'Connell and Lady Morgan A remarkable 
blind beggar ...... pp. 104 117 



Life of a medical student Bleeding still practised Opera- 
tions before anaesthetics The happiest year of my life 
was 1 846 My brother and I go yachting A memorable 
night The yacht is crippled My home life ends 
Home memories pp. 118 125 





Potato blight appears in 184-6 Conditions of people in 1847 
" awful " Potatoes almost the only food of the people 
Easy way of getting married Also an easy path to 
poverty Runaway matches Rotting potatoes Stench 
from the fields The starving people Plenty of money 
but no food Waste of money on useless " relief works " 
Maize meal adds to the misery and death rate Its 
preparation not understood Derelict " relief works " 
I become a full-blown surgeon . . pp. 126 131 



A qualified surgeon Appointed to the Fleet Street Dispensary 
Appalling condition of sick poor of Dublin Tenement 
houses The voice from the far corner I wish to remove 
to a hunting country as dispensary doctor I withdraw 
and am not elected A strange request Surgeon to the 
Geashill Dispensary Primitive arrangements My lodg- 
ings in the thatched cottage Famine distress still 
continues Food very scarce Population diminished 
through death and emigration I am as poor as my 
neighbours I move to Dublin in 1 850 . pp. 132 142 



The Queen and Prince Albert visit Ireland in 1849 Great 
excitement Previous visits of Royalty Unforgettable 
scenes on this occasion The whole population turn out 
The crush in the crowded streets It rains Unpaved 
streets Train service inadequate The Queen's distrust 



not overcome The great mistake of her reign The 
Irish peasantry Father Mathew I am nicely taken in 
And am reminded of another incident Antiseptics 
not in use Postponing operations The last of the 
" Hedge schoolmasters " . . . pp. 143152 



Vacant houses in Dublin owing to the famine I fall over- 
board and am in great peril But am hauled on to the 
wharf A cautious friend Other accidents I take a 
house in Upper Mount Street Religion, politics and 
candidates I canvass for post of hospital physician, but 
am defeated Appointed to the Rotunda Hospital 

pp. 153159 



Anxious years Marriage and a family, but only a small 
income Tempted to go to England My wife opposed 
Join the staff of the Adelaide Hospital I make 
progress and publish my lectures to students Rapid 
success A great compliment Master of the Rotunda 
Hospital A magnificent monument to Dr. Mosse 
What one man can do Inception and growth of the 
hospital Lotteries to raise funds Building a chapel as 
a source of income ! Other strange methods I find the 
hospital deficient in modern and sanitary conveniences, 
and commence reforms . . . . pp. 160 169 



A useful sermon Mr. Samuel Adair I send out begging 
letters and a handbill Many improvements effected 



Opposition Four ex -master governors Timid counsels 
A diplomatic move that overcomes opposition Sir 
William J. Smyly finishes the work of reform begun by 
me All Dublin hospitals also benefit The corporation 
votes an annual sum The delicate question of the 
nurses Object to uniform Objectionable mode of 
appointing Poorly paid and ignorant Uniform settled 
by accidental occurrence The Lord Lieutenant visits 
the hospital The auxiliary hospital Students from 
abroad pp. 170184 



Withdrawing gradually Elected president of the College of 
Physicians Elected representative on the General 
Medical Council I give a banquet A part of the Press 
resents my invitation to the Lord Lieutenant I come 
in for abuse A clever and amusing leading article I 
give a lift to a political opponent " Three acres and a 
cow " is first uttered An amusing allusion 

pp. 185190 



The cares and trials of a medical man Ungrateful patients 
And grateful Patients who make a change A 
revolution in the practice of medicine Sulphuric ether 
Recollections of leading men Some anecdotes The 
lady's shilling fee Sir Dominic Corrigan The fat 
surgeon and the thin, and the highwayman Some more 
stories My many friends Compensations 

pp. 191207 




I take once more to yachting My boatman's only compli- 
ment The growth of my yachts A 20-tonner Yacht- 
ing not an unmixed pleasure An anxious night at sea 
We shelter in Lough Ryan Kept in Douglas Harbour 
during six days of storm Men who are not yachtsmen 

pp. 208214 



Advantages of the medical profession An ungrateful patient 
Unappreciative patients The question of fees The 
Australian lady and her generous husband Success in 
cases, not money, the delight of doctors Undeserved 
credit The too obedient patient Some false teeth 
stories Old age something to be proud of Going to 
extremes pp. 215 227 



A new generation of doctors Little changes, but examples 
of a great revolution Changes at home and abroad 
State of the country districts of Ireland Guidance of 
affairs not in our hands Death-bed scenes " I never 
thought death would be like this " An indelible im- 
pression An answer to prayer I did my best 

pp. 228238 



I CAN quite understand someone taking up 
this book and, after reading a page here and 
there, laying it down and saying, "How 
could anyone take the trouble of writing out 
this ? there is nothing new or novel in it, and the 
writer does not seem even to have been acquainted 
with the leading people of his day." All quite 
true ; it merely narrates incidents in the ordinary 
life of an ordinary man. Nor is it easy to say 
why it was written ; probably the chief factor 
being, that at the end of a long and busy life, 
when old age and failing powers compel the 
adoption of one of inactivity, the mind, no 
longer occupied with the interests and anxieties 
incidental to the practice of a profession, reverts 
to the past. Then the memories of things long 
past and forgotten recur, or perchance are 
recalled by some little incident, in a quite 
unexpected manner and with wonderful vividness. 
To record these became a recreation to me. 

Then I had often thought, during the later 
years of my professional life, that an outline of 
the difficulties and disappointments which so 
discouraged me at its commencement, if published, 



might perhaps encourage some of those similarly 
circumstanced some who, relying on themselves, 
fail to realise that One higher than they directs 
their ways and thus I might help them to look 
to Him for guidance. 

I accordingly wrote some articles which 
appeared in the British Medical Journal a year 
ago (1909). These articles elicited kind letters 
from various medical friends, and I had some 
copies reprinted for private circulation. But this 
caused a difficulty, for as they contained much 
purely professional matter, not suited for the 
general reader, I had to refuse to give copies to 
various friends and relatives who wished for 

During the last year or two I had in a desultory 
way, written my recollections of what I had heard 
in my childhood of my father's career. Of 
himself he ever spoke but little ; but his graphic 
descriptions of the state of Ireland when he first 
came to it, had made a deep impression on my 
mind, and my children and friends having from 
time to time expressed their wishes that I would 
publish these, with memories of my own early 
years, I do so now, with no little hesitation, adding 
something of which had already appeared in the 
pages of the journal alluded to above. 

The Victorian era, over the whole of which my 
memory extends, has been the most marvellous 
period in the world's history. In the brief space 



of sixty years, as a consequence of the many 
great discoveries and astonishing advances made 
in all departments of science, everything has 

My earliest recollections are connected with 
the talk about the recent opening of the 
Manchester and Liverpool Railway, and I 
remember well my being given a cotton hand- 
kerchief, on which that event was depicted, printed 
at the time in Manchester. So I have been 
cognisant of the development of railway travel 
from its earliest period, when twenty miles an 
hour was a wonder. 

I remember the starting of the first steamship 
that crossed the Atlantic and the anxiety for 
news of her safety. I remember going through 
the dockyard at Chatham and seeing, I suppose, 
half a dozen ships of war in the process of being 
built, and the " London," a 90-gun man-of-war, 
launched only the day before. No one dreamed 
that ere a quarter of a century would have 
elapsed " the Wooden Walls of England " would 
be things of the past. 

Then after a long interval came the astounding 
announcement that, by the aid of electricity, 
words and messages could be transmitted with 
incredible rapidity ; and the electric telegraph 
was established, its value doubted by many, its 
use objected to by some. My brother went to 
America in 1837. The voyage, a favourable one, 

I.D. xvii B 


occupied five weeks, and the news of his arrival 
took many more days to reach us than it would 
take minutes to transmit it now. 

Truly he must be destitute of all power of 
observation who is unable to realise the truth of 
that prophetic utterance, that in the last days 
" many shall run to and fro, and knowledge 
shall be increased." 






Born in George IV.'s reign My fifth birthday Sir Robert Peel- 
Recollections of my father Accession of Queen Victoria Rev. 
Charles Simeon My father takes holy orders and is made 
chaplain to an Irish bishop The Irish Channel passage occupies 
two weeks Ignorance of the poor Irish Hedge schoolmasters 
Deplorable state of the Church Church livings as political 
rewards The peace of decay and death in the Church The 
bullet-marked parsonage My father a second Oberlin Building 
the first day school Movement for promoting Sunday schools 
My childhood's recollections and my father's death The 
potato famine. 

I WAS born in 1827, George the Fourth being 
still on the throne. Now my memory, while 
defective as to recent events, is unimpaired 
as to many which occurred over seventy years 
ago ; thus I remember distinctly being carried 
round the room, seated in my little armchair, by 
my elder brothers, on the fifth anniversary of my 
birthday, that important event having been 
forgotten till dinner was over. I was the 
youngest of ten surviving children, and my 
eldest brother was twenty years my senior. 

19 B 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

Even more clearly do I remember the advent 
to power for the first time of Sir Robert Peel 
in 1834 this being impressed on my childish 
memory in consequence of the laughter excited 
by my asking an elder brother who had taken 
me on his knee during breakfast time, on the 
morning of his arrival from Dublin by the night 
mail, if he had heard " that Sir Robert P. had 
come in." I had heard so much about Sir Robert 
having " come in " that I thought I should 
communicate the news to him, though what 
" coming in " meant I knew not. Great was my 
shame at being so laughed at, but then I was 
barely seven years old. Truly a child's sense of 
ridicule must be acute, that such an incident 
should be so clearly remembered after the lapse 
of so many years ! 

Next, I have a vivid recollection of the 
annular eclipse of the sun, which I now know 
occurred on May 15, 1834 ; and of the excitement 
caused in the parish by my father announcing 
on the previous Sunday that it would take place on 
that day week, and that, in order that the con- 
gregation should not be disturbed, Divine service 
would on that day commence at eleven instead 
of twelve o'clock, which, for the convenience of 
members of the congregation living at a distance, 
was the usual hour. 

Many disbelieved him. Of course it proved to 
be true. It was a bright sunny day ; the eclipse 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

commenced at about 3 o'clock, and we children 
watched with great anxiety for the event, 
armed with pieces of smoked glass which had 
been prepared beforehand. It seems to me but as 
yesterday that I stood beside my father as he 
explained to me, as it grew dark, how the moon 
was coming in front of the sun. Then we saw the 
sun looking like a mere crescent, and finally the 
ring of light appeared all round the dark body 
which he told us was the moon. 

Equally well do I remember hearing of the 
accession of Queen Victoria to the throne. My 
father and mother, having to pay a visit, took 
me in the carriage with them. We stopped 
in the village while my father went into the post 
office for letters, and coming out with the news- 
paper in his hand, read out the announcement 
that King William was dead and that the 
Princess Victoria had been proclaimed Queen. 
The news was nearly a week old, so slowly did it 
travel in those days. 

My father was the last of the elder branch of 
an old Norfolk family, which had been settled 
in that county for centuries. Born in 1774, 
he was left fatherless when but four years old, 
with a sister a year or two older. This sister 
lived, unmarried, to be ninety-six years old. My 
grandmother marrying again very soon, and the 
match being disapproved of by my father's family, 
the children were taken charge of by their uncle, 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

a leading surgeon in Norwich, and brought up 
with his family. 

What his uncle's ideas of education were I 
know not, but at any rate he sent him at an early 
age to school at Kirkheaton, near Huddersfield, 
in Yorkshire, where he remained till he was 
sixteen and a half years old. 

He seems to have been kindly treated while at 
school and happy enough, but certainly was taught 
very little, for he told me himself that his classical 
acquirements when he went up to Cambridge 
straight from school were very poor, while of 
mathematics he knew absolutely nothing, of 
Euclid, not even the first proposition ; and he felt 
his ignorance greatly on his first arrival at the 

Fortunately he had a friend there, a Norfolk man, 
who, like himself, had gone to Caius and Gonville 
Colleges, and who had been there for a couple 
of terms. This man took compassion on my 
father and offered to read with him for a while. 
But this relation of pupil and teacher was of but 
brief duration, though their friendship lasted till 
the death of the latter, for my father having 
mastered the six books of Euclid in a week, his 
friend said he thought the pupil could now get 
on without him. So he did, and to some purpose, 
for he gained a scholarship the following year. 
And at the degree examination in 1795 when his 
friend, Mr. Woodhouse, was senior wrangler and 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

first Smith's Prizeman, my father came out 
second wrangler and second Smith's Prizeman. 

It is rather a coincidence that not only were 
they both Norfolk men, and both members of the 
same College; both were also born in the same 
month, though Mr. Woodhouse was the senior 
by a year (born April 28, 1773, my father on 
April 17, 1774). Both, too, were elected Fellows 
of their College. My father was elected in 1797, 
Mr. Woodhouse not till the following year, 1798. 
I know not why he was elected in preference to 
his senior, whom my father always spoke of in 
high terms. 

At this date Charles Simeon was rector of 
Trinity Church, Cambridge, and was labouring 
with the greatest earnestness and zeal to rouse 
the Church of England from the dreadful state 
of apathy into which it had fallen. My father, 
coming under his influence, became deeply 
imbued with the truths of the gospel of Jesus 
Christ, and he determined to devote his talents 
to spreading the gospel, and his life to labouring 
in his Master's cause. Accordingly he took holy 
orders. Very soon a fitting opening was made 
for him in Ireland, for Dr. Porter, a relative, 
having been promoted to the bishopric of 
Clogher, he invited my father to go with him 
as his chaplain. This offer was accepted, and 
he followed the bishop to Ireland. This was 
in 1798. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

The journey to any part of Ireland was in 
those days a serious matter. First, a tedious 
cross-country route to Holyhead had to be 
accomplished on heavy lumbering coaches, the 
journey from Cambridge occupying three days 
at the least. The Menai Bridge was not built till 
long after, and as the ferry boat could not always 
cross the straits, a delay of hours might occur 
there. Then the packets to Dublin were small, 
and dull sailers ; and unless with a fair wind, the 
voyage to Howth or to the Pigeon House, which 
were the points the captains of these small vessels 
aimed at reaching, was often prolonged to days. 

On either the second or third occasion of his 
crossing the channel my father, on reaching 
Holyhead, found such a gale blowing from the 
west that he was forced to remain at the little hotel 
there until it abated. One morning he was roused 
at daybreak and told that the packet which had 
been detained by the storm, would sail in half an 
hour. He hurried on board, and, with a strong but 
fair wind, had a rapid passage and arrived at the 
Pigeon House Fort, at the entrance of the Liffey, 
just one hour after the packet which had sailed five 
days before them arrived. Charles Dickens, in one 
of his works, gives a vivid description of the 
miseries endured by passengers during these 
voyages to Ireland. 

Then, too, there was always the possibility of 
provisions running short. Nothing in the shape 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

of food was provided for passengers. Each 
brought his or her own store, and sometimes 
these slender stores became exhausted ; then ship's 
biscuits would form the only procurable food. 

So late as in the year 1814 this mishap befell an 
Army surgeon, who, in his old age, narrated to me 
the troubles he endured in a voyage from Bristol 
to Cork on his return after serving through the 
Peninsular War. He had calculated that they 
might possibly occupy as much as five or six days 
at sea, and provided food accordingly, as also 
fodder for a fine mule he was bringing from Spain. 
But the fates were adverse, for a fortnight elapsed 
ere they reached their destination ; all provisions, 
even the stores carried by the packet, were 
exhausted, and the poor mule was all but starved ; 
but I believe he was landed alive. 

An old gentleman whom I knew very well in 
my youth told me that before the introduction of 
steam, he remembered, on one occasion, twenty- 
one days to elapse without the arrival of a mail 
in Dublin from England ; he had read the 
statement showing this to be so on a board fixed 
outside the general post office, on which used to 
be recorded daily the dates and hours at which 
packets arrived and departed and the number of 
mails due. 

The diocese of Clogher, which roughly speaking 
comprised the counties of Fermanagh, Tyrone, 
and Monaghan, contained a large Protestant 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

population, sunk, however, in the grossest 
ignorance. If at the end of the eighteenth 
century the Church of England was destitute of 
religious life, the Irish branch of it was sunk to 
the lowest depths of spiritual degradation, mainly 
due to the absolute indifference of the great 
majority of both clergy and laity to religion. 
The peasantry were ignorant to a degree hardly 
possible to be conceived of in the present day. 

It was only in the larger towns that any means 
of educating the poor existed, other than that 
afforded by the " Hedge schoolmasters," a class 
of men themselves little above actual beggary, 
who wandered about the country, imparting 
their own scanty knowledge to the children of 
those who would supply them with food and 
afford them a lodging. One of the last of this 
class came under my care so late as 1850. Now 
they are extinct. No wonder that a hundred years 
ago few of the lower orders could read and fewer 
write ! 

But if the peasantry were ignorant, the state 
of the Church was still more deplorable. The 
bishops were nearly all Englishmen, selected 
not for their fitness, but because they were related 
to some politicians who demanded from the 
minister of the day a bishopric for a son, a 
brother or other relative, in return for his vote 
and influence in Parliament. Most of these 
bishops disliked Ireland, in which they had to 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

reside, far from the attractions of London, and 
few of them cared about the spiritual welfare 
of their dioceses, and for the most part exercised 
their patronage from personal or political motives. 

Whether it was my father's brilliant career 
at Cambridge or his well-known piety which 
influenced the bishop who made choice of him 
as his chaplain I am unable to say, but certain 
it is that my father's arrival happened at a critical 
period in the history of the Church, and that he 
materially assisted in the movement, then com- 
mencing, to infuse life and a truly spiritual 
religion into the Irish Church. 

It is true, no doubt, that at this time there were 
no disputes in the Church all was peace ; but it 
was peace the result of lethargy so profound as to 
simulate death. Bishop Ingram aptly describes 
such peace. He says : " There have been in the 
Church times of peace, which were not times of 
true peace, when the world and the Church 
made friends when there were no ritual disputes 
or aggrieved parishioners, but only because no 
one cared what happened ; when the standard 
of worship had been lowered to meet the slack- 
ness of the day." It was this false peace my 
father and a few Christian men, clergymen and 
laity, set about disturbing. 

My father often spoke to me in his declining 
years of the sad state of Ireland at the date of 
his entering on the duties of chaplain to the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

bishop. On him devolved the duty of examining 
the candidates for ordination, and he learned 
with amazement that this had been considered a 
mere form. When he determined not to treat 
it as such, and rejected several candidates, there 
arose something like a mutiny in the diocese. 
The bishop, however, supported him, and though 
it entailed on my father for a time a vast amount 
of annoyance he gained the day, and so far as his 
own diocese was concerned a better class of men 
presented themselves for ordination, One of the 
rejected candidates wrote him a most insulting 
letter, to which he did not reply, After a lapse 
of more than twenty years he received another 
letter from the same man, in which the latter 
expressed his gratitude to my father for having 
rejected him, saying that his having done so 
first led him to think that there was something 
more in ordination that the mere qualifying for 
preferment in the Church and that these thoughts 
in time led to his becoming a Christian, in the 
true acceptation of that term. 

After filling for six years his trying post as 
chaplain, the bishop presented him with a living. 
The glebe house was small and inconvenient, and 
in a somewhat isolated situation, without shed or 
tree near it. On visiting it he found it in bad 
repair, the ceilings of several rooms showing the 
marks where they had been struck by bullets, 
while the hall door had been badly battered. In 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

fact, the house looked more like a dilapidated 
police barrack than a parsonage. 

The explanation was simple. Although the 
actual rebellion of 1798 had been crushed after a 
brief campaign, it had been carried on in a 
desultory way for a considerable time subse- 
quently ; and the previous rector, a Mr. Johnston, 
fearing an attack from one of the numerous bands 
of rebels who for a considerable time roamed 
about the country, placed his house in a state 
capable of being defended, not that he was 
unpopular, but because these bands were in the 
habit of attacking any house from which they 
thought arms could be obtained. 

Mr. Johnston's precautions were justified ; his 
house was surrounded one night, and the demand 
that all his arms be handed out being refused, 
the house was fired on. This was replied to by 
Mr. Johnston and his gardener, the former from 
the upper, the latter from the lower story, Mrs. 
Johnston loading the now obsolete flint guns 
they had for her husband, a boy loading for the 
gardener. This desultory firing was continued on 
both sides for more than an hour ; then the rebels, 
seeing that they could not thus succeed, made a 
rush, and attempted to sledge in the hall door ; 
but Mr. Johnston had foreseen and provided for 
such an attempt, and had made a small opening 
just over the door, through which he now thrust 
the muzzle of one of the old-fashioned blunder- 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

busses, loaded with balls and slugs, and fired. 
The discharge took effect, for blood and brain 
were found adhering to the door next morning. 

The rebels after this went off, carrying their 
dead or wounded with them ; and not long after, 
a party of military made their tardy appearance, 
the firing having been heard in the village a mile 
off in which they were quartered. The officer 
explained that the delay in relieving them was 
due to the fact that the troops had been harassed 
by being drawn out night after night by the 
firing of guns only to find it to be a mere ruse, 
and that now they did not turn out till satisfied 
that a real attack was being made. Although 
this attack had occurred two or three years before 
Mr. Johnston's death, no attempt to repair the 
damage done had been made. 

It was to this half barrack, half parsonage and 
much-dilapidated house that my father brought 
his young wife, to whom he had been married 
in the year 1805, and settled down to the life 
of a country clergyman, amongst a population 
ignorant to an extreme degree, steeped in poverty, 
and in truth only half civilised and liable at any 
moment to be excited to acts of violence. He, 
however, never once was insulted, threatened or 
obstructed in any way. This, no doubt, was 
mainly due to the fact that, though a perfect 
stranger, he came with the character of being 
a sincere Christian, one anxious for both the 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

temporal and spiritual welfare of his parishioners 
and ready to help them to the utmost of his 

Fifteen years later he moved to another parish, 
attached to which was a larger and more 
commodious glebe house. Here he at once set 
about to try and improve the wretched farming 
as practised by his ignorant parishioners, while he 
earnestly laboured for their spiritual welfare. 
My father always reminded me of what I have 
since read of Oberlin. Like him, while earnest in 
his main work, that of a minister of Christ, he 
laboured to elevate the degraded and neglected 
population amongst whom he was placed. He 
planted trees on the glebe lands and around 
the house, and succeeded in getting not a few of 
his parishioners to follow his example. He also 
took much trouble to get improved methods of 
farming adopted, for cultivation when he first 
came was of the most primitive kind. He had, 
moreover, a slight knowledge of medicine, picked 
up while he was a Fellow of Caius College ; and 
as there was no doctor within miles, he soon 
gained both the confidence and gratitude of the 
poor, whom he doctored to the best of his ability. 
Indeed such a reputation did he gain that when 
a good many years later a dispensary was opened 
in the village, and a qualified medical man resided 
in the district, he experienced the greatest 
difficulty in inducing the poor to avail themselves 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

of his services. It was probably from my father 
I inherited my taste for the medical profession, 
for even as a little boy I used to help him to 
make up medicines for the poor. 

But it was to the work of the ministry that he 
devoted his best energies. The years spent as 
chaplain to the bishop had not been idle ones, 
for he had devoted his spare hours to study, 
nearly wholly to that of the Bible. At that 
time, too, he taught himself Hebrew, and was 
thus enabled to read the Scriptures in the original 
tongue. He had gained also the reputation of 
being, what he really was, an eloquent speaker 
and preacher, and was invited to preach in Dublin 
and elsewhere. Dr. Carson, for many years 
Vice-Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, gave 
me a newspaper, printed before I was born, 
announcing that a charity sermon would be 
preached in St. George's Church, Dublin, " by the 
Rev. W. Atthill," on the following Sunday ; and 
my friend, the Rev. Ralph Harden, a copy of 
the report of the meeting held in 1814 in Dublin 
" To promote the establishment of the Hibernian 
Church Missionary Society," in which appears 
the speech my father made in support of the first 
resolution ; while in a letter written to me by my 
old friend, Dr. Stack, ex -bishop of Clogher, the 
following passage occurs : "I once asked the 
Primate (Beresford) who was the best preacher 
he ever heard ; after thinking a minute he replied, 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

* Well, I have heard so-and-so, and can hardly 
say ' ; then he immediately added, ' Yes, I can 
tell you : William Atthill.' " This, of course, 
was said many years after my father's death. 

But he was a most retiring man, and it was 
only when he considered it a duty that he could 
be induced to leave home ; seldom, indeed, failing 
till his health broke down to preach twice each 
Sunday in his own church, and also during the 
week in one other of the villages situated at a 
distance from his church ; sometimes in a school- 
house or, failing that, in a room. He never 
wrote a sermon or brought notes into the pulpit, 
but devoted some hours regularly every forenoon 
to study, preparing the subjects on which he 
intended next to preach. 

As to his parochial work, that he did most 
methodically. The Church services had been con- 
ducted in the most slovenly and irregular manner, 
and as very few of the congregation could read, the 
responses were made by the old clerk, who, there 
being no possibility of having any kind of music, 
also " raised " the psalm tunes to the best of his 
ability. The services, though no doubt dull, were 
very reverently conducted, and the congregation, 
which soon became a large one, very attentive. 
Holy Communion was regularly celebrated on 
the first Sunday in each month ; previously it 
had only been at festivals indeed, I think, only 
at Christmas and Easter. Baptism, which had 

I.D. 83 c 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

been sadly neglected, soon became general. As 
to confirmations well, the less said of them, the 
better. This I know, that for years before my 
father's death no confirmation had been held 
in his parish, the then bishop always making 
excuses when pressed to come. I was not 
confirmed till I was twenty, and then in 
England by the Archbishop of York. On one 
occasion the children gathered from three large 
parishes, and, I among them, assembled for 
confirmation, when, after waiting for hours, a 
servant in livery rode up to say that his 
lordship, not feeling well, had stopped at 
Enniskillen, fourteen miles off, and was not 
coming on. I have reason to believe he was not 
really ill, but he was always fancying himself 
ill, especially when called on to take a little 
trouble ; he was a " lord " as well as a bishop. 

There was no school in the whole of my 
father's large parish when he first came there, 
but he succeeded ere long in getting one built ; 
and though there was great difficulty in obtaining 
a master, teaching proceeded regularly, so far 
as reading, writing, and some arithmetic were 
concerned. Then about the year 1810 the 
movement to promote the establishment of 
Sunday schools commenced, and in this move- 
ment he took an actual part ; they proved a great 
success. Before his death three secular and three 
Sunday schools were established in his parish. 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

My father knew personally every family in his 
huge parish, which, though narrow, was fourteen 
miles long. There was but the one church in it, 
situated nearly in the centre ; but he succeeded 
in having a church built at each extremity, a 
district in each case being detached from his 
parish, and a similar portion from the adjoining 
ones, thus virtually creating two new parishes. 

He died at the age of seventy-two, of a very 
painful disease, due, I believe, to fatigue and 
exposure during his long daily rides, taken in 
all weathers, visiting his flock : not the sick 
alone, but also those in health. A more humble 
and sincere Christian than he never lived, nor 
one more devoted to his Master's service. 

As a little child I well remember his often 
taking me up as he sat on a chair with one leg 
crossed over the other, and seating me on his foot 
as it was raised by the other leg from the floor. 
Then he would give me a ride, holding me on 
with both hands, and saying all the time, 

" There go the mail coaches up and down 
every day, and they have four horses, and they 
have long tails ; and the guard sits behind, and 
he has a red coat, and he blows the horn ; and 
the coachman whips the horses, and the horses 
go a-gallop, a-gallop, a-gallop." 

I can picture him standing up so straight, 
with his clean-shaved face and high forehead, 
looking down on his little son, and then, bending 

35 c 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

down, would clasp my two hands in his and turn 
me a somersault between his legs. This feat 
used to delight me even more than the rides on 
his foot. I only remember my father as an old 
man. He was tall and spare, but muscular, and 
to the very last his carriage was as straight and 
upright as that of any youth. He was bald, and 
had become so when only thirty. My feelings 
towards him as a child were of great affection 
and great reverence of affection in consequence 
of his invariable gentleness with us children. I 
never remember him punishing me. Once only 
he raised his hand to me. I must have been 
sixteen, and spoke disrespectfully in his presence 
to my mother. Being close to me he struck my 
cheek with a smart blow of his open hand, and 
spoke a few stern words. Then he left the 
room. I soon went out of it, too, when he 
called me into his study, to say that he regretted 
his hasty act as being unbecoming a Christian ; 
then, having said a few kindly words pointing out 
my fault, he dismissed me, with my affection 
and reverence for him increased. 

His death was a great blow, for I loved him, 
and my grief was great and sincere ; and it is 
still my happiest memory to call to mind his 
laying his hands on my head a few months 
before his death, blessing me and saying, I was 
the greatest comfort he had in his life. He had 
been greatly pleased at the reports he received 


Ireland a Hundred Years Ago 

of my steady industry, and at my having gained 
the hospital prize in clinical surgery awarded at 
the end of the previous session. 

But I believe that God in His mercy called 
him at this juncture from the scene of his 
earthly labours, and saved him from witnessing 
the calamities coming on Ireland. He died 
(February, 1847) just as the awful effects of 
the blight of the potato crop in the previous 
autumn were declaring themselves, to be followed 
by the even more terrible epidemic of fever, 
which swept away hundreds of thousands of 
its poverty-stricken inhabitants ; while many 
thousands more fled its shores, seeking a new 
home in America, too often to encounter hard- 
ships, want, and even death, in New York and 
other seaports, into which these helpless emigrants 
crowded, and beyond which want of means 
prevented their going. 




Primitive ploughs Old Irish carts Improving bad roads Pillions 
Beggars on every road A squatter's turf cabin Tea versus 
porridge and milk Establishment of regular carriers Farmers 
without vehicles Peat and manure carried in panniers on 
donkey- back Peat the only fuel of the West of Ireland Our 
kitchen arrangements Rush-lights and "moulds" What our 
housekeeping meant I see a dying sheep Our Christmas-boxes 
and " mummers " Our butler My friend the coachman The 
pathetic story of our old nurse Departing emigrants to America 
Whiskey and " wailing " Boxty bread. 

IT would be difficult for any person visiting 
Ireland now, or, indeed, for the younger 
members of the present generation of 
Irishmen, to realise what the country was like 
when my father settled down in it in 1805. 
Brought up in Norfolk, he took great interest in 
farming, and he personally effected much for the 
temporal welfare of his poor parishioners by his 
example and teaching. Thus, the only ploughs 
known then in his district, or, indeed, in the 
North of Ireland, were made of wood, primi- 
tive in construction, the share being just 
tipped with iron. With these the ground was 
merely scratched, the result being that the crop 
produced was of the poorest description. 


Country Life in Ireland 

My father got an iron plough down from 
Dublin, the advent of which excited the greatest 
wonder, mixed with admiration. He has told 
me of the crowds who would assemble to watch 
"the beautiful way she ploughed," and as a 
result not a few of the better class of farmers 
acquired similar ones. The wooden ploughs had 
entirely disappeared from out of our district 
before I was old enough to recollect them. 

A tumbril cart, which arrived soon after the 
plough, was, however, not so well received, for 
many, not alone of the peasantry, but even of 
the gentry, clung to the old Irish carts then 
and for long after in general use. The wheels 
of these, which were quite common in my child- 
hood, were not infrequently solid pieces of wood, 
often unshod, and sometimes the wheel and axle 
revolved together; and their load could never 
exceed a few hundredweight. The horses which 
drew them were wretched animals, and had to be 
unyoked to discharge the load. However, my 
father's kind, unobtrusive manner disarmed 
hostility, and by his example and teaching he 
effected a decided improvement amongst the 
poorer agriculturists. 

He also succeeded in inducing the Grand Jury 
to improve the roads, which were shockingly 
bad. Our district was very hilly, and for the 
most part the roads ran from point to point 
direct, without any attempt at engineering. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

I recently revisited the scenes of my childhood, 
and could hardly believe that I had often driven 
up and down hills on roads, since disused, which 
now seem to me to be dangerous even for 
equestrians to descend at a foot pace. I recollect 
the opening of a piece of new road, laid out by 
my father to cut off some of these terrible hills, 
which with no little difficulty he had persuaded 
the very conservative Grand Jury to make. How 
conservative these gentlemen were at that time 
may be guessed from the fact that the chief land- 
owner in the parish, who was member of Parlia- 
ment for the county, would never use the new 
portion of the road which led from his house 
to the church, but ordered his carriage always 
to be driven over the old road, though this 
entailed stopping the carriage several times to 
put on and take off a slipper drag. He was 
an old general officer, who had served with 
distinction under Abercrombie in Egypt. He 
used to come to church regularly in a carriage 
drawn by four horses, with postiUions and out- 
riders. I well remember his funeral, which by 
his special directions traversed the old road, the 
distance from his house to the church being over 
three miles. With all his obstinate conservatism, 
he was a truly kind man, and good landlord ; was, 
moreover, highly esteemed and on the most 
friendly terms with my father and mother. 
Pillions were in common use during my child- 

Country Life in Ireland 

hood ; not only did the women ride behind their 
brothers or husbands going to market, but also 
to church, to which a stable for the reception 
of the steeds was attached. 

All this was long before the terrible potato 
famine of 1846-9, when the country was greatly 
over-populated by a mass of pauper and semi- 
pauper inhabitants. Beggars were met on every 
road and seen at every door ; it was a regular 
trade, and my father had to issue a kind of ticket, 
which he distributed to those who were supposed 
to reside inside the bounds of his parish. They 
were supposed not to be relieved at his house 
without producing this a useless rule, as it in 
no way lessened the number of those who daily 
applied for alms at the hall door. 

Then boys and girls of eighteen and nineteen 
married, without having any means of supporting 
themselves ; often the pair would squat at the 
edge of a bog, building a one-roomed cabin of 
peat sods, and in this they passed their life 
and reared children, who, though barefooted and 
dirty, were always bright, and, like their parents, 
cheerful. They lived on potatoes, of which a ; 
patch could in general be grown on the adjoining 
waste. How they existed in these wretched 
cabins it is hard to conceive; in a year or so 
after its erection the cabin would generally have 
sunk to well nigh half its original height, the 
gables uneven, the roof sagged and grass-grown, 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

'the floor of soft earth sunken, and in wet 
I weather the hollows in it full of mud. A few 
lean hens would generally be seen walking 
promiscuously in and out, sharing in the meals, 
the skins of the potatoes being thrown to them 
as the family fed. A basket of potatoes would 
be placed in the centre of the floor, around 
which the family sat. The hens roosted in the 
cabin at night. This is no fancy sketch ; hundreds 
of times have I, as a boy, gone into such cabins, 
and witnessed such a scene. If the " boy " a was 
the son of a farmer who held a few acres of land, 
he would most likely be permitted to erect a 
cabin on the edge of the farm ; and he might 
be given a plot of ground for potatoes, in return 
for which he would help the father in farm work. 
In either case the husband might earn a pittance 
as a labourer, and the wife a trifle by selling her 
eggs to dealers who attended the markets, but 
then the price of eggs would not be more than 
sixpence a dozen, even in winter. 

The spinning wheel was to be seen in every 
house, the yarn spun being sold to be woven 
by hand looms into coarse linen. The farmers 
paid labourers but sixpence a day as wages, with 
a dinner of potatoes, though in harvest time they 
might receive as much as a shilling a day ! 

1 The term "boy" at that date included and in many districts in 
Ireland still does include every unmarried male, no matter what his 
age might be. 


Country Life in Ireland 

The better class of farmers fared somewhat 
better ; they would frequently have porridge for 
breakfast, and, as they kept a cow or cows, milk 
with it ; but the dinner and supper would be of 
potatoes with butter-milk. On Sundays there 
would be, perhaps, boiled bacon and cabbage for 
dinner. But potatoes remained the staple food 
of the peasantry. We children in our games 
used to sing the following rhyme : 

" Potatoes they are delicate food, 
I know not any half so good ; 
And you can have them boiled or roast, 
Or any way you like them most." 

And it really expressed the feeling of the 
population. They loved them. 

Tea was a great luxury, its price being pro- 
hibitive five shillings the pound ; and sugar six- 
pence. Butter, on the other hand, was very 
cheap, sixpence in summer and eightpence in 
winter at most. Even in the houses of the 
gentry the servants would not be given tea, but 
would have porridge and milk for breakfast and 
supper ; meat, of course, and potatoes for dinner. 
The housekeeper, cook, and, but not always, the 
butler, would probably have tea. 

Well would it be for the present generation 
if the old diet was in vogue still ; now tea is 
drunk to a most injurious extent by all classes, 
and instead of porridge and milk, servants and 
even the very lowest classes live on tea and 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

bread, the flour used for the latter being deprived 
of its most nutritious parts and often greatly 
adulterated. To this injudicious diet we may, I 
think, fairly attribute, at least in part, the early 
loss of teeth which disfigures alike our town and 
country population ; and possibly also the rapid 
spread of consumption and the allied diseases 
amongst the population of Ireland. The stamina 
of the whole population seems to have deteriorated 

Railways were, of course, unknown, and the 
goods traffic was mainly carried on by a class of 
men known as "carriers," who started from 
Dublin in companies of a dozen or more, or in 
fewer numbers from Belfast or Londonderry, 
each man driving a two-wheeled cart drawn by 
one good horse, the ends of the shafts being 
always prolonged backwards, so as to project four 
feet behind. These carts travelled fifteen or 
twenty miles a day, and carried every conceivable 
kind of goods. Our house being situated near 
the road leading to Londonderry, the rattle of 
the carts could easily be heard, and often as a child 
did I listen to them as I lay in bed at night. 

The journey between Dublin and Londonderry 
generally occupied them ten days, and the arrival 
of one of the carts at the glebe was an event to us 
children. I remember well one of them arriving 
in the yard having a gig, which my father had pur- 
chased in Dublin, perched on the top of a big load. 


Country Life in Ireland 

These carriers only served the towns and 
villages on the main routes, and prior to 1815, 
when Bianconi started his first car, there was 
virtually no communication between places off 
the coach roads. Pedlars who carried their 
packs on their backs afforded to the poorer and, 
indeed, to many of the better-off classes the only 
means of supplying their wants. These men 
often visited our house in my childhood, and if I 
got the chance it was a treat to me to see their 
store of goods displayed. Among the traders of 
this class was the Italian, Charles Bianconi. He 
having obtained capital to the amount of one 
hundred pounds, started business, making the 
town of Clonmel his headquarters. He traversed 
the country for many miles round, carrying his 
goods himself. Feeling the great want of con- 
veyances between the towns in the district in 
which he traded, he finally decided to start a one- 
horse car, to run daily between Clonmel and the 
neighbouring town of Caher, six miles distant. 
The experiment, as every one knows, was suc- 
cessful. This was in 1815. He soon started cars to 
ply to other towns in the neighbourhood. Then 
the one-horse cars being inadequate to meet the 
traffic, he had long four-wheeled cars built to be 
drawn by two horses ; and so he went on extend- 
ing till, in 1845, he was working over 3,000 
miles of roadway daily, Sundays always excepted. 
At the end of his life he declared that this rule of 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

his not to work his horses on Sundays, made 
in reverence to the day, paid well. He found 
that his horses not only did their work better 
from having the rest on the seventh day, but 
lasted so much longer, so as more than to counter- 
balance the money they would have earned by 
working on that day. 

He made a fortune, and died universally 
respected at the age of ninety. 

While the farmers had carts of a sort, and 
some of the better-off realising in time the 
advantages of those used by my father would 
purchase such, the mass of the poorer class, 
tilling their little holdings of from one to three 
or four acres (the former being much the most 
numerous) had none at all, very many not as 
much as a wheelbarrow. They were contented 
to carry the manure, a heap of which was always 
to be seen close to the door of their cabin, to the 
field where the potatoes were to be grown, and 
the potatoes, when matured, to their dwelling in 
" creels," so constructed that, by withdrawing a 
peg, the bottom opened and allowed the little 
load of manure or potatoes to drop out at each 
side of the ass, or, it might be, half-starved pony, 
from whose sides the " creels " were suspended. 

These petty farmers had seldom any other load 
to be carried except those and the peat for fuel 
from the bog, which was brought in like manner. 
But if a market town was not too far distant, the 


Country Life in Ireland 

ass might be seen occasionally in company with 
many others, each laden with two creels full of 
peat fuel for sale, the value of the load being 
probably sixpence ; but then there were but few 
who had fuel to spare, too often their little store of 
it being expended ere the winter was over. Coal 
was absolutely unknown in the inland districts of 
the North of Ireland. I never saw a coal fire till, 
when ten years old, I passed with my parents 
through Dublin, on our way to England. 

Turf, as peat is always called in Ireland, is still 
the only fuel used by the poor throughout the 
West, and largely also in the central districts of 
Ireland, immense tracts in those localities being 
bog land. There is no coal of good quality in 
Ireland. Turf is cheap and in some respects a 
cleanly fuel, for though the large quantity of ash 
that remains after its combustion is very light 
and easily blown about, it does not soil as coal 
ashes do, and the smoke emitted while peat is 
burning is very different from that of coal, which 
blackens everything around. 

But peat is quite unsuited for any house where 
there is much cooking and many fires going. In 
my father's house a lad was employed for hours 
every day in winter in carrying in from the " turf 
house " the needful supply. The kitchen fireplace, 
of course, was an open one, of great length. From a 
bar over it was suspended at one end a large boiler, 
a vessel with projecting cock ; this was to supply 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

the hot water used for all purposes except the 
making of tea, etc., and had to be refilled 
continuously by hand, for our water supply was 
drawn from a well, situated much below the level 
of the house, and it had to be carted up daily in 
large barrels. In addition to the boiler, one or 
more kettles were always suspended on the bar 
over the fire, as well as pots for cooking, etc. 
Joints of meat, fowls, etc., were roasted on a long 
spit, which, when in use, ran along the whole front 
of the fireplace and was turned by means of a 
"jack," an open frame, which seemed to me to 
be full of wheels and which was wound up when 
needed. This was an object of wonder to me in 
my childish days. The quantity of turf consumed 
in the huge fireplace was enormous, for a basketful 
would be reduced to ashes in no time. Under it 
was a pit to receive the ashes, and into this pit 
the fire was " raked " each night at bedtime. 
" Raking " consisted of placing four or five pieces 
of half-burnt turf in a hole made in the ashes 
under the grate. Over these were laid some pieces 
of unburnt turf and the whole covered with ashes. 
The peat would then smoulder for many hours, 
and in the morning, being placed in the grate, 
would quickly burn up, and a fire would soon be 
had. In like manner a few pieces of half-burnt 
turf would be carried to the dining or other rooms 
where fires were needed remember matches were 
unknown. If by accident the " raked " turf went 


Country Life in Ireland 

out, the only resource lay in the use of a flint and 
steel. With these sparks were struck, which, falling 
into the tinder-box, made the tinder smoulder ; 
then thin slips of wood tipped with sulphur were 
held close to the tinder, and after much blowing 
they would blaze, and so, with the help of sticks, a 
fire would be lighted. All this was a troublesome 
job, especially in winter time, in the dark, there 
being no means of lighting a candle. It is no 
wonder that the failure of the " raked " fuel to 
keep alight all night was looked on by the whole 
household as a misfortune. 

In case of illness " rush "-lights were used to 
keep a subdued light in the sick-room : the 
rushes were peeled, a narrow strip of the peel 
being left on one side to strengthen them. The 
pith, when dry, was then dipped in tallow ; the 
rush-lights thus made would burn slowly for 
two or three hours. The very poor sometimes 
used these lights instead of candles, even tallow 
candles being above their means ; but as a rule 
the whole family went to bed ere it was quite 
dark and rose correspondingly early. 

Then we had " bog wood " ; long lengths of 
fir trees, with which the land many centuries 
ago had been clad, were every year met with 
at depths of five, ten or more feet from the 
surface, while the turf were being cut in the 
spring. These, when dried and cut into suitable 
lengths and then split up, ignited rapidly and 

I.D. 49 D 

blazed gloriously. In the winter afternoons it 
was common for us to sit round the drawing- 
room or nursery fire, playing or even reading 
without the need of other lights. 

Candles, indeed, were a serious item in the 
household economy. Dip-candles were used in 
the nursery and kitchen and in most rooms, 
except the drawing-room, dining-room and my 
father's study. They were bought in large 
quantities in the county town, fourteen miles 
off, and the use of snuffers was needed inces- 
santly to prevent them smoking. We children 
soon became experts in the use of the snuffers, 
and well do I remember the wrath I excited 
when, as sometimes happened, I snuffed out 
the candle. Mould candles used to be made 
in the house, and often have I watched the 
process. There was a regular frame, with 
shelves running across it, each shelf perforated 
with holes large enough to admit the metal 
mould till it sank to the collar. Then wicks 
made of twisted cotton were passed down from 
top to the lowest dependent part, the conical 
end, the small opening in this being then 
plugged and the melted grease poured in at 
the wide end ; these candles, too, required 
frequent snuffing. Wax candles were, of course, 
to be had, but they were too expensive for us, 
and were only used on special occasions. 
" Composite " candles did not come into use 


Country Life in Ireland 

till much later, to be superseded by those now 
called paraffin. 

My mother was a regular Martha and a clever 
housekeeper, and needed to be so, for our home 
was to a great degree self-supporting. There 
was always a very large household ; my mother 
had fourteen children, of whom ten seven sons 
and three daughters lived. Then there was a 
governess for the girls and a tutor for the 
boys, for my father had no leisure to devote to 
teaching. Nothing except groceries and such 
like were bought ; the glebe land supplied 
potatoes and oats, from which meal for porridge 
was made. Even wheat was grown, and a 
sufficient quantity ground by means of a hand- 
mill placed in a loft, to supply wholemeal to 
make brown bread. Flour, however, had to be 
bought. The week's supply of bread was baked 
once a week in a brick oven. The household 
had become smaller before I passed out of the 
nursery, but at one time a sheep used to be 
killed nearly every week. 

I happened by accident, while very young, to 
see a poor sheep just as it was dying, and the 
sight of the blood gave me such a shock that 
I cannot even to the present day see blood with- 
out a feeling of repugnance. In later years, when 
I had to perform operations of the greatest 
importance, occupying sometimes much over 
an hour, I became so absorbed in what I was 

51 D 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

doing that 1 seemed to myself unconscious of 
everything else ; then bleeding, if it occurred, 
affected me in no way, but I always disliked 
looking on. 

The carting of the dried turf from the bog 
in summer, for the supply of our house, was a 
big job. A great quantity was needed for the 
kitchen, and when to this was added that used in 
sitting-rooms, nursery and bedrooms throughout 
the house, an idea may be formed of the quantity 
to be stored each season. Three large "turf 
houses " were filled to the very roof each year. 
The turf could only be drawn from the bogs in 
dry weather, as the tracks along which the carts 
had to go were impassable when wet, and the 
carts were consequently always clean and dry 
when employed in carrying the fuel. One of 
the great delights of my childhood was to watch 
the arrival of one of the carts, and then, as soon 
as the load was discharged, to climb into the 
vehicle and persuade the man to give me a 
drive ; or, as I grew older, to drive the horse 
myself at a trot to the bog, which was nearly 
two miles off. Oh ! delightful were these 
clandestine excursions ! and how little did I 
think of the long run home ! 

I was a lonely child, the youngest of ten 
surviving. Five of my brothers were out in 
the world before I left the nursery ; a sister and 
brother nearer my own age were at school; so 


Country Life in Ireland 

games I had none, for I had no playfellow, but 
I was quite happy. I learned to ride before I 
can remember, and I recollect the delight of 
the winter on the ponds, for the frosts were 
certainly more severe and of longer duration 
seventy years ago than they are now. Christmas 
seemed a glorious time, but what my grand- 
children would think of the Christmas-boxes 
with which I was content, I can well imagine, 
for the nearest shop at which presents could be 
bought was fourteen miles off, and even then 
the choice was of the poorest kind. But then 
there was a splendid plum pudding as big as a 
small haycock ; this would be carried in all 
aflame. There were mince pies, too, home-made 
cakes, etc., and for us youngsters a bottle of 
home-made gooseberry wine ; whiskey was for- 
bidden in my father's house, save for cooking 

Then I have vivid recollections of bands of 
boys being admitted to the kitchen at Christmas 
time, dressed up fantastically to the best of 
their ability, and called " mummers " ; and of 
the excitement of us children, when the servant 
would, some evening between Christmas and 
Twelfth Night, enter the drawing-room and utter 
the almost magic words, " The mummers have 
come." Down we would rush to find the kitchen 
cleared, the servants ranged round the wall, and 
the table brought to one end for us to stand 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

on. These mummers were boys, farmers' and 
labourers' sons residing in the district, and were of 
course poorly clad, but decorated with scraps of 
coloured calico and ribbon sewed on here and 
there, and I think they wore paper caps of 
various shapes. They came into the kitchen one 
by one, each reciting some scrap of doggerel 
verse, and when the whole band had come in 
they danced in some fantastic way on the flagged 
kitchen floor. Then, a little money being given 
them, they went their way to some farmer's 
house, at which they might hope to receive a 
trifle. One of their rhymes has fixed itself in 
my memory, probably because it frightened me. 
A boy, aged about thirteen, rather better got-up 
than the others, with a frying-pan in his hand, on 
one occasion entered, strutted into the centre of 
the floor, and turning to face us, said, 

"Here come I, little Devil Doubt; 
Under my arm I carry a clout ; 
In my hand a dripping-pan; 
Money I want and money I crave, 
If you don't give me money, I sweep all to the grave." 

These mummeries, like many other old customs, 
have disappeared since the famine years. 

A butler whom we had, James Macintosh by 
name, looms largely in the memory of my 
childhood. He was an active little man and full 
of fun. Before my brother went to school we 
used sometimes to be sent out for walks, under 


Country Life in Ireland 

his supervision. These walks were delightful. 
James would not keep to the road, but led us 
across fields and over ditches, and up to the top 
of high hills we would never have ventured to 
climb. Then he would make us play at being 
soldiers. We had some kind of a flag and 
marched to the music of a penny whistle. He 
moulded lead shillings, too, which we received as 
pay, they being duly returned to him to be paid 
out again on another occasion. Oh, what little 
things may make childhood happy ! 

When I was left alone on my brother's 
departure, James taught me to play battledoor 
and shuttlecock, and 1 became quite expert at it. 
I would steal, too, into the dining-room as he was 
laying the table, and receive instruction in that 
art. I do not think I ever heard him use an 
improper word, but he told the funniest stories 
and had any number of doggerel lines and comical 
songs. One of the former is retained in my 
memory to the present day, and runs thus : 

"A knife and a clod spells Nebby Cod, 
A knife and a razor spells Nebby Cod Nazer, 
One pair of boots and two pair of shoes 
Spells Nebby Cod Nazer the King of the Jews ! " 

What a wonderful thing is memory to retain 
such nonsense and forget things useful or 
entertaining ! Poor man ! I only saw him once 
after I went to school. He called at my house 
some twenty years later ; he was still in service, 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

but looked old and shabby. I fear that, like 
many old servants, he was on the downward 
grade. I have never forgotten him. 

The coachman was another friend. He was a 
staid man of about forty, who had been in my 
father's service before I was born. He taught 
me to ride before I can remember. One ride 
made a great impression on me. I cannot have 
been, at the most, more than eight years old, if so 
much. It was impressed on my memory by two 
incidents. One was, that as we rode past some 
urchins who stood on the road side, one of them 
asked if I " was tied on." This I considered an 
insult. I was perched on a mare belonging to 
my sister, which must have been quite fourteen 
and a half hands high, the coachman holding a 
rein to control her if she became frisky ; otherwise 
I was independent ; the other, that we rode down 
to the shore of the lake where it was level and 
the water shallow, and the coachman made me 
ride into the water till the horses were knee deep. 
This at first frightened and then delighted me. 

Our old nurse's story was a rather pathetic one. 
She had married a soldier about the year 1810. 
Soon after the birth of a son he was ordered off 
to the wars and she returned to service, hearing 
from him only at long intervals, the last authentic 
news being that he was with his regiment at 
Waterloo. His name, however, did not appear 
in the lists of those killed or wounded, and 


Country Life in Ireland 

finally he was reported "missing" and never 
again was heard of. After the lapse of several 
years she married my father's right-hand man, 
who superintended the men who worked on the 
glebe lands, which were extensive, bought cattle, 
killed sheep, etc. ; he was a good deal younger 
than the nurse. They were settled in the gate 
lodge before I can remember, and it was a great 
resort of mine. 

Daily used I to run down there, delighted to 
watch her spinning the flax, as did also her ser- 
vant, a young woman, who would tell me 
wondrous stories, mainly fairy tales. One was 
specially interesting about a fairy who, assuming 
the form of a bull-calf, carried off on his back 
through the air a child who had " sneezed three 
times without any one saying, ' God bless you.' ' 
This story frightened me much, lest the like 
should happen to me ! 

Well, for years the pair lived happily. Then 
from the blue came the bolt. The husband had 
been sent to a fair by my father, but instead 
of returning sent a letter to say that he had gone 
off to America, and, as we soon learned, had taken 
with him the young wife of a carpenter who had 
recently settled in the neighbourhood, and whose 
husband had, it appeared, accompanied them. 
America was then a far distant land, from which 
few ever returned. 

My father allowed the poor woman to remain 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

in the lodge, and so things went on for more 
than a year, when one afternoon, hearing some 
one at the door, she went to it to find her husband 
propped up against it, powerless to move without 
help. It appeared that he had a paralytic stroke 
soon after reaching America. Then, when his 
money was spent, becoming a burthen on the 
pair, they brought him back and left him derelict 
at his wife's door. She took him in and nursed 
him tenderly till death came to release him, which 
was not until a year and a half later. 

It was at about this time (1835-6) that 
emigrants began to go to America at first, few 
in number and at long intervals. The probable 
departure of a young man, or of a whole family, 
would be the talk of the country for months 
beforehand. Londonderry was the usual place 
of embarkation for our part of the country. 
When the time arrived for the departure of the 
emigrants there was invariably a gathering of 
friends and neighbours on the previous evening 
to testify their sorrow by getting up a festive 
entertainment. At this gathering, though tea 
was generally to be had, whiskey was the beverage 
which was most freely forthcoming and most 
freely imbibed. Nearly every guest was sure to 
bring a bottle of it. The conviviality was kept 
up all night, but the grief, which was chiefly 
manifested by the loudest wailings, was reserved 
till the hour arrived when the emigrants must 


Country Life in Ireland 

leave their old home. The crowd followed them 
for miles, and the wailing could be heard long 
after all were out of sight. 

Some one composed a ballad descriptive of the 
festive scene. I have forgotten all of it save two 
lines, describing the powers of consumption of 
food and the after-effects on a guest who 

" Eat scones of Boxty bread 
And oceans drank of tea." 

Boxty bread was made of equal parts of 
raw potatoes grated, and flour ; was baked on a 
griddle ; was heavy and indigestible. Each scone 
would weigh quite one pound. The ballad 
described the subsequent suffering and the cure, 
which consisted of rolling and rubbing, and 
whiskey administered freely. 





A journey from Ireland to Norwich" The game of the road " A 
wretched crossing A short cut not always the shortest way 
Hospitality of the Norfolk people Three meals within three 
hours My first cricket The wretched little steamer The 
terrible storm of 1839 "The great wind" I go to school at 
Maidstone, Kent A very roundabout way to get there My 
school and some schoolfellows The incident of the broken 
windows First postage stamps Maidstone Fair The tragic 
story of one of my schoolfellows The Japanese assassin. 

WHEN I was ten years old my father and 
mother visited Norfolk for the first time 
in their married life. My eldest brother 
had married and was residing in the old family 
mansion, Brandiston Hall, some nine miles from 
Norwich. This journey was an event in my life. 
The party consisted of my parents, two sisters, 
an infant grandchild, the latter's nurse, and 
myself. The whole of the inside of the coach to 
Dublin, and that from Manchester to Norwich, 
was engaged several days beforehand, as also an 
outside seat. 

We stayed the first night at a friend's house 
situated on the coach road, some miles on the 


Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

Dublin side of Enniskillen, so we did not join the 
coach till after seven o'clock. At nine the coach 
stopped for half an hour for breakfast at a little 
country inn ; that breakfast was an amazing treat 
for me, and afterwards great was my delight 
when for a time I was permitted to sit outside 
with my sister, and see the coachman whip up 
the horses, and the guard behind, clad in a red 
coat, blowing the horn as we passed through 
villages or entered a town. That guard was 
a character. I came to know him well in after 
years. He used to amuse us boys as we travelled 
to school with his wonderful stories, and he taught 
us " the game of the road." He took one side of 
the road, and we the other, while we counted who 
would make, say, 100 first : men did not count, 
but every woman, cow, sheep or pig we passed 
on our respective sides of the road, or in the fields 
adjacent, counted each so much. I think a pig 
gained the highest number five, a sheep or a 
woman one each, and so on. When the weather 
was fine these journeys on top of a coach were 
delightful, but in wet weather horrible. We had 
no waterproofs in those days, no rugs, and if one 
had an old coat to throw over his knees he was 
well off. Umbrellas were of little use ; indeed, 
on a real wet day the drip off them only added to 
one's discomfort. I have been wet through before 
the coach stopped for breakfast, sat in that state 
in heavy rain till after dark, and been none the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

worse for it; but then I was young and hardy 
in those days, when luxurious travelling was 
unknown. The crossing by steamer to Liver- 
pool, which was then the mail route, and which 
occupied from twelve to fourteen hours, was a 
wretched experience. I was very ill, too ill to 
care for any breakfast at the hotel in Liverpool ; 
but the excitement of the railway journey to 
Manchester, the line having been opened not long 
before, and being still a wonder, revived me. 

We slept in Manchester, starting early next 
morning on the two days' journey across England 
to Norwich. Of that journey 1 only remember 
two events namely, what seemed to me the 
splendid dinner we had at the inn, somewhere in 
Derbyshire, at which the coach stopped at mid- 
day ; and the hotel in Newark where " the coach 
slept." My belief now is that the dinner con- 
sisted of merely roast mutton and potatoes, etc. ; 
but at the time I thought otherwise of it, and I 
was very hungry. The coach did not reach 
Norwich till near sunset on the second day, and 
it became dark ere we reached Brandiston. We 
had, too, an adventure on the way, for my brother, 
thinking to take a short cut, turned down a 
narrow little-used by-road, to find after a time it 
was the wrong one, and, it being too narrow, to 
permit of the carriage being turned with the 
horses attached, we had all to get out in the dark 
and have them and the pole, too, taken out, ere 


Travelling in Pre- Rail way Times 

we could get round. That was my first experience 
of Norfolk and its " ways." 

My next experience was an illustration of the 
hospitality of the Norfolk people. The greater 
part of the small estate which descended to my 
father was rented to one of those gentlemen 
farmers who did so much to uphold the reputa- 
tion of England before she became well nigh a 
mere manufacturing centre, and who were ruined 
by the repeal of the corn laws. Well, we were 
all invited to tea at his house, and of course went. 
We arrived before five o'clock, and almost imme- 
diately afterwards adjourned to the dining-room, 
where before my delighted eyes I saw all kinds of 
good things spread on the table to which I 
did ample justice. My father then took me with 
him to be shown the farm buildings, horses, pigs, 
etc. We were back in less than an hour, when 
we were told tea was ready ! I thought we had 
had it, but on entering the parlour for the second 
time was astonished to find that the former repast 
was only light refreshment. It appeared we had 
been expected an hour earlier. The " tea " con- 
sisted of much more than that beverage. There 
were hot cakes and cold cakes, and every variety 
of home-made sweets. I deeply regretted that I 
had not known what was to come when I had 
indulged so freely at the preceding repast, but I 
managed to get down a good lot of the delicious 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

Then, it being still daylight, we went for a 
stroll over the farm. I saw what Norfolk farming 
in those days meant. Large fields of ripe grain, 
of turnips, etc., in long rows, without a weed 
visible, and the plants exactly the same distance 
apart, and so on ; for this was the time when 
high-class farming was at its zenith in England. 

Returning to the house, my mother, after a 
time, rose to say goodbye, to be told that could 
not be, for supper was just ready a third meal 
inside three hours ! And what a supper was 
this ! hot meats, cold meat pies, pastry, and what 
not ! Alas, alas ! that supper was virtually lost 
to me ; there was no room left into which I 
could pack more. Alas, too, that the prosperous, 
generous English farmers of this class, so well 
portrayed by Dickens, are extinct ! 

While at Brandiston I was initiated into the 
art of bait fishing for carp and other small fry 
in a pond in the grounds. My taste for this 
sport has never been quite lost. In like manner 
I saw cricket a game then unknown in Ireland 
played for the first time, and I too played with 
other boys. Later on I was proficient in the 
game in a small way, and retain an interest in it 
to the present day. 

Our return journey was even more tedious 
than the outward one. We went from Norfolk 
to Harrogate on account of my father's health. 
There being no railway, and the coach journey 


Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

to Yorkshire a tedious and roundabout one, all 
of us, except my mother, went by sea from 
Yarmouth to Hull, and on to Goole, where 
we transhipped to a canal boat, and then on 
by coach to Harrogate. The sail from Yarmouth 
to Goole, we were told, would occupy some six or 
eight hours ; in point of fact we were more than 
twenty-six hours in that wretched little steamer, 
which I now know was about the size of a small 
tug, and, oh ! how sick I and everyone else, 
except my father, were ! There was but one 
little cabin with four berths round it, so the floor 
was covered with sick men, women and children. 
My sisters fortunately were well enough to 
remain on deck with my father, till, at about 
10 p.m., when we anchored somewhere off 
Grimsby in shelter, and some plan made for 
sleeping, my sisters, I know, got berths. 

The winter of 1838-9 was memorable on 
account of the terrible storm which occurred in 
January, 1839. I was the only child in the 
house, and slept in my father's dressing-room. 
In the middle of the night I was awakened by 
my father coming in, lifting me out of bed 
and carrying me to my mother's room. I then 
learned that the window of the room in which 
I slept had been smashed by slates which had 
been whirled off the roof, carried like leaves by 
the wind and dashed against it. My father and 
the butler remained up all night, as indeed did 

J.D, 65 E 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

the womenservants, who all congregated in the 
kitchen. The house, strongly built though it 
was, rocked, but resisted the storm ; half the 
roof was torn off. In the morning the lawn 
was seen to be covered with slates, most of 
them sticking upright in the ground, as a quoit 
would. Large trees were uprooted, and acres 
of young plantations on the glebe lands levelled. 
Even the cottages of the poor suffered terribly. 
One poor man climbed on to the roof of his 
cabin, which was situated on the shore of Lough 
Erne, a few miles from our house, to place heavy 
stones on the thatch, in the vain hope of saving 
the roof, when a terrible gust swept the whole 
roof, and the man on it, right into the lake, where 
the man was drowned. 

In Dublin the terrors of the night were 
augmented by the burning rafters from the roof 
of the Bethesda schoolhouse, which had taken fire, 
being carried by the wind considerable distances. 
Slates and brickwork fell in all directions. It 
was the most disastrous storm Ireland has 
experienced, and to the present day, in the North 
' of Ireland at any rate, 1839 is still spoken of 
with awe as the year of " The Great Wind." 

That winter was a severe one ; there was much 
snow and severe frost. I recollect the delightful 
sliding on the smooth ice, the successful snaring 
of blackbirds and thrushes, and the rich harvest 
of snipe and woodcock the sportsmen made. It 


Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

was a memorable winter to me, the more so as it 
was the last whole winter I ever spent at home. 
Summer saw me going with my brother to the 
grammar school, Maidstone, Kent, where he had 
been for some time. 

How well I remember the journey there the 
start on a lovely summer morning before 4 a.m. ; 
the long, delightful day on top of the coach ; 
the arrival at the old schoolhouse, long since 
abandoned for newer and better quarters ; my 
abject terror at finding myself left alone amongst 
what seemed to me a crowd of boys I who had 
lived such a secluded' life, almost companionless ! 
But that soon wore off. I fear I was somewhat 
pugnacious, for I know I went to church with a 
black eye my very first Sunday there. It was 
given me by another Irish boy, and no doubt 
very well deserved. 

It now seems strange that my parents chose 
a school so far away, at a time when travelling 
was so tedious, for the London and Birmingham 
Railway was not then completed, and our first 
journey to school was a roundabout one. We 
went most of the way by coach from 
Manchester to Hull, the railway being open 
only to Rochdale ; from Hull to Gravesend by 
steamer, the voyage occupying twenty-four 
hours ; and thence by omnibus through Chatham 
to Maidstone. At Chatham there was a delay 
of an hour or so, and my brother left me at the 

67 E 2 

inn while he went off to see some friends he 
had in the town. Left by myself, I ventured 
to order a bottle of gingerbeer, which the 
waiter duly brought and was proceeding to 
open when I stopped him, saying I would do 
so myself. This I deferred, doing till he left the 
room ; then, not knowing how to do it, the cork 
flew out unexpectedly, and away went the 
gingerbeer all over the tablecloth ; the loss 
of that drink was great, but that was nothing 
compared to my terror. I must have expected 
some retribution would follow, for to the present 
day I remember my joy at the waiter making 
nothing of the accident and quickly sopping up 
the mess I had made. 

I spent two years happily enough at Maidstone. 
The school was a small one there were about 
thirty boarders ; but what would the present 
generation of schoolboys think if they went 
home but once a year, as was the fate of several 
of us. The journey from the North of Ireland 
to Kent was so long and so expensive that we, 
and a few other Irish boys, had to spend the 
Christmas holidays at school ; and there was no 
Easter vacation in those days at any school. 
We, however, were very contented, and, indeed, 
happy, during the vacations ; not that we did not 
long for home, but then the delight of returning 
there when the summer came round was great. 

The master, Mr. Harrison by name, was kind 

Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

to us. We were quite free to go in and out, 
into the town or to the country, as we liked. 
We were invited to the drawing-room of an 
evening pretty frequently, when he and his wife 
would join in games of cards, such as " Pope 
Joan," " Commerce," or other round games* 
which seem long since to have fallen into 
oblivion. When alone, we used to play whist 
for hours at a time, but once the school term 
commenced we never touched a card. 

Mr. Harrison was not only a kind-hearted 
man, but was a good master ; certainly he 
trained us to be truthful. For example, on one 
occasion a squabble took place in the small 
enclosed playground attached to the school 
between a lot of us little boys and some of the 
big ones ; and as we could not fight them with 
our fists, we pelted them with cabbage stalks, a 
heap of which we discovered in the garden close 
at hand. Now the schoolroom and dining-hall 
had once been parts of an old monastery, and 
were lighted by large Gothic windows which 
looked on the playground. Our missiles 
generally missed the chap we aimed at, not a 
few struck the wall, and occasionally one landed 
in a window, smashing glass, and, worse, breaking 
the lead in which the little diamond-shaped panes 
were inserted. At any rate, one aimed by me 
at the head of a big boy missed him, landed in 
a window, and smashed a lot of these panes, 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

making a great hole. This catastrophe helped 
to cool our ardour, and the battle ended by our 
running away. 

Next morning the handsome windows were 
seen to be in a sad plight, and I believe we 
were all very sorry for what had happened, 
unintentionally on our part, and we all expected 
to be punished. The course, however, that 
Mr. Harrison took was to announce that all 
pocket-money was stopped till each boy stated 
how many panes of glass he had broken bear 
in mind these were small diamond-shaped panes, 
such as are seen in the windows of many old 
churches. A list was accordingly made out, 
which I headed, acknowledging to the smashing 
of a dozen or so of panes, all smashed by that 
one unlucky shot, which had been seen by all ; 
but by a strange coincidence, not one of the other 
small boys could be found who had broken more 
than two ; most of them would acknowledge to 
one only. Well, the list went in at one o'clock, 
just before dinner. 

No sooner was dinner over than a message 
came ordering me to attend in the study. I 
was, of course, greatly frightened, and my 
comrades cheered me by telling me I must 
stuff copy books up my sleeves and inside my 
vest to deaden the blows of the cane I should 
be thrashed with. I was a very small boy, 
even for my age, which was just twelve, and 


Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

Mr. Harrison was very tall and big in proportion. 
In terror I entered the study ; he was standing 
in the middle of the room clad as in school time, 
in cap and gown, wearing his large, gold -rimmed 
spectacles and holding the list in his hand. He 
at once addressed me sternly, saying, " You have 
broken all these panes of glass ? " 

I replied, almost crying, that I did not intend 
to do it, and that some of them had previously 
been cracked. 

" I don't care for that," he said as sternly as 
before; then, changing his tone, added, "You 
are the only boy in the school who has told the 
truth. Here," he added, putting half a crown 
in my hand ; " keep that till I ask for it, and 
come in and dine with us to-day." 

I have never forgotten that lesson, or ceased 
to honour the old man's memory. 

Letters in those days were few and far between, 
for as the postage on every letter we received from 
home, in the North of Ireland, was two shillings 
and ninepence, and the reply cost the same, 
expense having to be considered we received 
only one and wrote one home every month. 
The penny postage came into use in 1840, during 
my first year at that school. It was a great 
boon. I have recently given my grandchild one 
of the first stamps issued, taken off a letter of ours 
to my mother, which 1 found after her death, and 
which, no doubt, was posted by me that year. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

The two years' school life at Maidstone were 
happy ones ; we had a good deal of liberty, and 
in summer fished for perch, carp, etc., in the 
Medway. One day I well remember, when my 
brother and I returned bearing three dozen small 
perch, to us a wonderful event ; my share was 
caught with a rod purchased with the half-crown 
the master had given me for telling the truth. 
Then we were occasionally allowed to go in a 
boat on the river with a master, and Wednesdays 
and Saturdays being half-holidays we played 
cricket in summer on an adjoining common, now, 
I believe, enclosed. Lessons gave us but little 
trouble. I learned the rudiments of Latin and 
Greek without difficulty, and I did not realise 
till I went to another school the wretchedness of 
being overdriven in lesson work. 

The annual fair, held in May on waste ground 
lying between the school and river, was a great 
event in our school life. We were allowed to 
visit it during certain hours. I had never seen 
such a sight before, and was delighted. There was 
a menagerie, of course, peep shows, Punch and 
Judy, Aunt Sally in various forms, and other 
such means of beguiling little boys and tempting 
them to get rid of their pennies. But the cheap- 
jacks were what captivated me most, and the 
wonderful way articles cheapened down. You 
saw, say, a penknife handed over for sixpence, for 
the exact counterpart of which you yourself or 


Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

someone else had been enticed to give a shilling 
a few minutes before ! The system of these 
cheapjacks was to produce an article, say a 
knife, and, standing on the step of the van, call 
out, " Who will bid for this splendid article ? 
Who will have it for two and sixpence?" 

There being no bid the man would rapidly 
reduce the sum named, saying, " Well, we will 
say two and fourpence, two and two, two 
shillings ; will none give two shillings for this 
first-class knife?" 

Still no response, and the cheapening went 
on till someone would perhaps buy it when it 
came to one and two or a shilling, and it was 
handed to him. 

Instantly another identical article was put up 
at the price the previous one had fetched, and 
a purchaser often would appear ; if not, the price 
would in general descend again with marvellous 
rapidity till it reached the actual value of the 
article, when, if bidders did not appear, that 
article was withdrawn, and another of quite a 
different kind produced. 

I used to watch these cheapjacks for, I am 
sure, an hour at a time, and I wonder if such 
scenes still occur at the English country fairs ? 
The cheapjacks evidently made a good thing of 
it, for, besides us schoolboys, maidservants, 
yokels and the country girls who would be with 
them were easy victims to their wiles. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

That fair is a thing of the past. *I visited 
Maidstone a few years since to find the fair 
green converted into a well-kept concreted cattle 
market, and the school itself into a hop store. 
For a trifling tip I gained access to the dormitory 
in which I used to sleep, and saw a huge pocket 
of hops occupying the space my bedstead formerly 
stood on. I was glad to find the school flourishing 
on a new and better site. 

I well remember all the talk about the marriage 
of Queen Victoria with Prince Albert, which 
took place in February, 1840 ; and subsequently 
the birth of the Princess Royal. Both events 
occurred while I was at Maidstone, and gave 
us half-holidays. 

Another matter which kept us boys in a state 
of excitement was watching for news of the 
" President " steamship : we watched in vain. 
At that time steam navigation was in its infancy, 
and the " President " was one of the few steamers 
which had ventured to cross the Atlantic : she 
had on board Power, a celebrated actor. Of 
that ill-fated ship, of crew or passengers, no sign 
or tidings have ever been heard. 

One or two of my schoolfellows at the 
grammar school were my friends in after-life. 
One of these, a boy of my own age, to whom 
I was much attached, had a sad fate. His name 
was Baldwin, and he was almost friendless. His 
mother was dead, and his father, a captain in the 


Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

31st Regiment, was in India ; the boy hardly 
remembered him, for he had not seen him since 
early childhood. Baldwin was in the charge of 
the master and his wife, and seemed to have 
no relatives, for he never went anywhere for 
vacation. On the whole he was kindly treated 
by Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, but was more or less 
neglected. His pocket-money was very scanty 
and clothes often shabby. He was very clever 
at school work, but erratic and untidy. His 
name was down for admission to Woolwich, for 
which he was to be prepared when older. 

As a lieutenant his father had been present 
with his regiment at Waterloo ; subsequently he 
was on board the " Kent, East Indiaman," when 
that ship took fire in the Indian Ocean and when, 
by the exercise of the most perfect discipline, the 
soldiers, passengers and crew were saved and 
taken on board of a small brig, the " Cambria," of 
500 tons, which fortunately hove in sight. But 
Mr. Baldwin unfortunately had his leg lacerated 
by a piece of iron while climbing the side of the 
brig. In India he obtained his company, but 
there his promotion stopped, for the old purchase 
system was in force and he had no money to 
purchase the next step. Thus the lieutenant who 
had gone through the perils of Waterloo was 
still only a captain in 1841, and so remained till 
the first Sikh war broke out hi 1845. The 31st 
were then sent to the front. In Lord Cough's first 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

action, one of the field officers of the regiment 
being killed, Captain Baldwin obtained his 
majority without purchase, only to lose his life in 
the bloody battle of Ferozebad a few weeks later. 

The news of his father's long-waited-for pro- 
motion and of his death reached his son almost 
simultaneously. The latter was then a cadet at 
Woolwich, much to his own surprise, for at that 
time interest was all-powerful and candidates for 
admission to the Academy who were without 
powerful friends would be passed over, in favour of 
others who had influence. Indeed, the friendless 
candidate would often not be called to appear atthe 
examination for admission till past the age limit. 

Baldwin, finding he was approaching the limit 
of age without being summoned, gave up all hope 
of obtaining admission to the Academy, and was 
preparing for a university when he was unex- 
pectedly called up. He made a brilliant 
examination and was, of course, admitted, but he 
was not happy there. He had but a small 
allowance, ill-fitting clothes, and was wanting in 
polish ; he was therefore delighted to find himself 
gazetted as Ensign, without purchase, in his 
father's old regiment, the 31st, in the ranks of 
which there were many vacancies after the bloody 
campaign it had passed through. His father, it 
appeared, had got his name down for a commission 
when he thought that his son had no chance of 
gaining admission to Woolwich ; and the Horse 


Travelling in Pre-Railway Times 

Guards made the tardy reparation for their 
neglect of the father by at once giving the cadet a 
commission. He was received with a welcome on 
joining the 31st in which his father had served 
so long, and became popular. The regiment soon 
returned from India, and in 1850 was quartered 
in Dublin, where I had just settled, and I was 
delighted to have my old schoolfellow at my 
house. Then came the Crimea war, and he 
went there with his regiment, served through the 
whole campaign without once seeking leave, 
and attained the rank of captain before he was 

On his return to England he was one of the 
first to join the Staff College just then instituted. 
He passed through it successfully, and shortly 
after obtained his majority. 

Then once more for a few hours he came into our 
life ; for, being appointed to some post on the staff 
of the Commander-in- Chief, he was sent down to 
inspect the Norfolk rifle corps, one of the 
numerous bodies of volunteers which were 
formed after the conclusion of the Crimea war. 
My brother, who, like myself, had been his 
schoolfellow, was at that time Deputy Chief 
Constable of Norfolk, and was told off to com- 
mand the escort of mounted police in attendance 
on the Prince and Princess of Wales, who came 
down to be present at the inspection. So my 
brother came in contact with Major Baldwin. I 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

recollect receiving a letter from my brother telling 
me how he had ridden beside the Princess of 
Wales, then recently married, and how surprised he 
was to recognise in the staff officer who inspected 
the corps his old schoolfellow Baldwin. 

Being anxious to see foreign service, Major 
Baldwin soon after exchanged into a regiment 
quartered in India. Just then our relations 
with Japan had become strained. The British 
Residency had been attacked, and the Queen's 
representative, Sir Rutherford Alcock's life 
endangered. Troops were ordered up from India, 
and amongst them George Baldwin's regiment. 
Peace was patched up and there was no fighting ; 
but the people were intensely hostile, and foreigners 
were warned that the roads were not safe. 

Notwithstanding the warning, Baldwin and his 
friend, Lieutenant Bird, determined to visit a 
temple some miles distant. When nearing the 
place, they were suddenly attacked from behind by 
men armed with two-handed swords. The first 
blow, struck from behind, clove Baldwin's head 
right down to the neck; that aimed at Bird glanced 
off the skull and nearly severed the shoulder from 
the body ; he lived a few hours, just long enough 
to be able to tell the tale. So ended the lives of 
two promising officers ; Baldwin, in fact, was 
already a distinguished man. The news of his 
death shocked and distressed me greatly. I had 
a great regard for my old schoolfellow. 



The headmaster's object in life All classics Caning We have play 
hour but no games I am always behindhand The curriculum 
No French or German Our objectionable dormitories Our 

washing bowls Food plentiful and good, but Tablecloth 

but no plates for breakfast I start a cricket club and issue a 
challenge The moral standard of our school was low The 
under-masters I am apprenticed to a doctor and pass my 

AFTER the summer vacation of 1841, my 
brother went up to the university, and my 
parents, thinking it better I should not be 
so far from home, transferred me from Maidstone 
to an Irish school, supposed to be the best hi the 
country, a reputation resting wholly on the fact 
that pupils from it obtained very frequently first 
place at the entrance examinations for Trinity 
College, Dublin. For this they were very care- 
fully prepared indeed, crammed. To me the 
change from the English school was great, and 
it certainly did not make for my happiness. 
The school I now went to was a comparatively 
large one, there being some 120 boarders and 
60 day boys. With the latter the boarders did 
not associate ; they were not allowed into the 
playfields, and had to leave the premises the 
moment school work ceased. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

The headmaster certainly was a remarkable, if 
narrow-minded man ; he did his duty to the best 
of his judgment, and lived for his school. His 
one object in life was to see his pupils' names in 
the honour lists, and to attain this he never 
spared himself. He was in the schoolroom 
(and there was but one room for the 180 
boys) from 7.30 a.m., summer and winter, 
till 3 p.m. when school was over, except, of 
course, the interval of about an hour and a 
half, between nine and ten-thirty o'clock for 
breakfast and washing, which latter was not 
expected to be done by the boys before break- 
fast. Out of school hours we never saw 
him; his only recreation was a constitutional 

Rather under middle height, of a very spare 
figure, always wearing a tightly buttoned frock 
coat, with his sharp, clean-shaved face, you could 
not pass him unnoticed ; but his ideas of 
education were limited to a degree. He 
evidently believed that every boy could be made 
a classical scholar, and that Latin and Greek 
were the only subjects really worthy of being 
taught, so the boys who could not master these 
subjects with facility had a wretched life. They 
were pronounced "idle" and punished accordingly. 
The assistant masters were not allowed to inflict 
any punishment ; they reported all boys whose 
work was bad to him during school hours, and 


My Irish School 

the ones so reported would be called up to the 
doctor's desk, and caned vigorously on the hands : 
these canings occurred frequently every day. 

In addition to being caned, most of the boys 
so reported were ordered to remain in during the 
next play hour and learn the lesson. Then there 
were always the same three or four boys reported 
every day, for nearly every lesson ; these, regu- 
larly from the end of the first week or so from 
the commencement of the term, would be ordered 
to remain in and work at their tasks during the 
whole of the play hours till that term ended. 
No doubt these boys generally were dullards, 
who seemed incapable of learning Greek and 
Latin ; but one, whom I remember well to have 
been a bright little fellow, was one who, under 
different treatment, should have done well. He, 
term after term, was kept in, not having one hour 
for recreation in the day. The system was an 
awful one, and though, no doubt, a few of the 
pupils became good classical scholars, I only 
know of one of my schoolfellows who attained 
even moderate eminence in after-life. 

My own case was a curious one. At Maidstone, 
after reading a book or so of Csesar and then 
Ovid for a while, we were put into Virgil. Our 
lesson was a short one, for we were only beginners, 
and we had to prepare but six or eight lines for each 
lesson. At the end of the first week at this work 
the headmaster called the class up and announced 

I.D. 81 F 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

that he was " going to teach us to scan." How 
well I remember that lesson! I can, even now, after 
the lapse of well nigh seventy years, repeat the 
line he took for his purpose : Hie aliud majus 
miseris multoque tremendum. Virgil, Book 
II., line 119. He kept us before his desk for a full 
hour after the school had been dismissed, and so 
thorough was his instruction, that 1 never had 
further trouble in scanning such Latin verse as 
Virgil wrote. 

Well, on going to the Irish school, the Doctor 
asked what book I was reading ? I said, " Virgil." 
Then, without asking me another question, he 
desired me to go into the " Virgil class." I 
soon discovered that most of the boys in that 
class were not only from one to two years older 
than myself, but also beyond me in classical 
knowledge, and the amount of work to be prepared 
was three times as much as I had been accustomed 
to. As a result I was always behindhand. 
The Greek work, in like manner, was beyond me. 
But this did not seem to have occurred to the 
Doctor. I did my very best, gave up much of 
my playtime to preparation in vain. I was 
pronounced " idle," caned, and, specially during 
my first year, " kept in " frequently. 

Another peculiarity of the system was that 
there was no promotion of the boys at the head 
of a form to the one above them, so, except when 
a new boy happened to be put into the class, 


My Irish School 

there was no change made. From the time I 
joined till I left the school three years later I was in 
the same form. Having read the six books of Virgil, 
we went on to Horace, then to Juvenal and the 
Latin plays in succession. Our work was increased, 
that was all ; and the same with Greek Xeno- 
phon, Homer, Greek plays, etc., indeed, every book 
named in the curriculum for the entrance 
examination of the University of Dublin. 
Having read these through, we began again. I 
went over most of them two or three times, so 
when I went up for the entrance examination I 
knew these books nearly off by heart ; but my 
knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages was 
poor enough, and yet the school had the 
reputation of being a " splendid one " 1 

The result of this system was, that one or two 
boys who were always at the top of the class 
gained high places at entrance, and classical 
Honours in the University course ; but the rest 
of the class learned little. English was hardly 
taught at all, just a little history (and that ancient), 
and geography : indeed, the latter was a mere 
form. Not a single boy learned French or 
German. Mathematics were relegated to a 
secondary place, and counted for little in school 
work ; this was unfortunate for me, for Euclid 
and algebra gave me no trouble, while I never 
succeeded in learning Greek properly. The only 
thing I really gained by my three years at that 

83 F 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

school was " application." I learned to give my 
attention to my work. My education, properly 
so-called, only began after I entered college. 
I virtually from that date educated myself, for I 
never had the help of a private tutor either in 
classics or medicine. 

I believe I must have been one of those boys 
eager to acquire knowledge, but to whom such 
a routine as existed in that Irish school was 
destructive. I know I was incapable of retaining 
in memory Greek and Latin rules or verses, as 
being to me unaccompanied by any intellectual 
meaning. All my after-life I have regretted that 
the years devoted to learning a mere smattering 
of Greek were not devoted to learning German 
and French. 

In other respects, also, the arrangements of the 
school were objectionable ; the dormitories were 
very large, the smallest containing twenty, the 
largest as many as forty beds. No basins or jugs 
were allowed in the dormitories, and the lavatory, 
such as it was, was situated below the level of the 
ground, being virtually a flagged cellar. Along 
its sides were benches, in which were cut circular 
spaces holding wooden bowls to be used as basins. 
On the floor in front of them lay a thick plank on 
which we stood, and which was always saturated 
with moisture. In the centre of the floor were 
tubs full of water. When a boy wanted to wash 
his face or hands, he took one of the wooden 


My Irish School 

bowls, as likely as not full of dirty water left by 
the last user. This he emptied on the floor, which 
sloped towards a large opening under the one 
window which lighted the place ; then, stepping 
off the plank, he filled the basin by dipping it into 
the tub, and proceeded with his ablutions. 

No light was allowed in the lavatory in winter 
and for the first two winters I was there I 
regularly washed in the dark, feeling along till I 
got an empty basin and filling it as best I could, 
in the dark winter mornings, out of a tub. In 
general, I was alone, even when the mornings 
were brighter, for only some five or six boys out 
of the whole school washed before breakfast ; they 
were not expected to do so. During my last 
winter at this school this vile arrangement was 
altered, a proper lavatory erected, water laid on, 
and light supplied during the dark winter 

The arrangements for meals were nearly as 
primitive as those for washing. The food was 
plentiful and wholesome this 1 am glad to be able 
to say but what the present generation of school- 
boys would think of it is another matter. 

Morning school lasted from 7.30 a.m., summer 
and winter, till nine o'clock ; then we trooped to 
the dining-hall for breakfast. The meal was 
served on long tables along each side of which 
were placed forms. Some forty boys sat at each 
table. Down the middle of the table were placed 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

japanned bread baskets, filled with hunks of dry 
bread, each loaf having been cut into about a dozen 
square pieces, a large mug of milk being placed 
for each boy, cold in summer, hot or cold, as 
wished for, in winter. Knives and plates there 
were none, but the tablecloth was generally 
clean. Such was the invariable breakfast. 

The boys reassembled for school at ten o'clock 
and remained in the classroom till three, except 
on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when we broke 
up at 2 p.m. Every day at one the butler 
appeared in the schoolroom, carrying in front of 
him a large tsay, on which were piled thick slices 
of dry bread, of which each of us took a slice as 
the man passed backwards and forwards between 
the rows of desks in front of which we sat ; this 
was our lunch. Dinner was at five and consisted 
of joints of roast and boiled meat on alternate 
days, and of potatoes served in their skins. These 
we peeled ourselves, the skins lying in a heap on 
the cloth beside our plates. We had plenty to 
eat, and the meat was always good ; but of vege- 
tables, other than potatoes, we had none. 
Puddings were unheard of. Supper at eight 
o'clock was breakfast repeated, only that there 
never was any hot milk. Further, the school was 
a veritable jail, for no boy was permitted on any 
pretext, except a friend or relative called for him, 
to go outside the school premises. 

It is but right that I should add that a few 

My Irish School 

years after I had left the school a new master 
was appointed, a man of enlightened views as 
well as a capable master. He changed the entire 
system, remodelled the school on the lines of 
English public schools, and under him and his 
successors it has attained a high standard of 
excellence and is highly thought of. 

Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that 
no games were instituted. No doubt there was 
a fives court, but only one. Cricket was quite 
unknown, and neither football nor hockey were 
played. The senior boys deemed such games 
derogatory to their dignity, and no master took 
the least trouble to encourage games. We spent 
our spare time wandering aimlessly about the 
playfields, which were extensive. 

In the summer, however, of 1842, 1 started the 
idea of getting up a cricket club. Out of the 
120 boarders there were only myself and one 
other boy who knew anything of the game, or, in 
point of fact, had ever seen a game played. This 
boy was one of the seniors, a son of the then 
Recorder of Dublin, the late Sir Frederick Shaw. 
He undertook to organise a club to be composed 
of the older boys, and I one for the juniors. My 
scheme proved the more successful partly 
because there were more of us, but mainly 
because boys thirteen or fourteen years of age 
took up the game more seriously and were more 
anxious to learn it. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

But the ground was atrocious, and we received 
no help whatever from the master. In fact, he 
took no notice of us at all. All the same, we 
juniors practised zealously, and at the end of the 
season challenged the seniors to play a match, 
they to omit Shaw from their eleven. We beat 
them handsomely. To me this was the great 
event in my school life. Of course I was captain 
of the eleven. I had taught them all they knew 
of the game, and, as I bowled pretty well, took 
many wickets. At that date cricket was hardly 
known in Ireland, and not at all in the North. 
As far as I know, mine was the first attempt made 
to introduce it there. I believe the club ceased to 
exist after I left ; but I visited the old school a 
few years ago, and, though it was during the 
vacation, I saw with pleasure the level, well- 
kept cricket ground where had been a rough 
field, all hills and hollows, in my day. 

But I hated the school. It was a veritable 
jail. As I have already said, we were never 
permitted to go outside the playfields on any 
pretext, unless a relative or friend came for us. 
The headmaster's principle seemed to be that no 
boy was to be trusted in the smallest degree ; 
consequently nothing was gained by being well 
conducted, and it is not to be wondered at that 
his precautions failed to keep up the moral 
standard of the school. Bad language was 
common amongst the boys to a terrible extent, 


My Irish School 

and you would constantly hear shocking oaths 
and profane speech. 

Much of this was, without doubt, due to the 
class of men who were assistant masters, for with 
the exception of the senior of these, who was a 
charming old man, and whose memory I still 
hold in esteem, and one other, who was well 
intentioned, but incompetent, all were unworthy 
of trust. One specially, I remember who was a 
prime favourite with the headmaster, because, 
being very sharp, he found out and reported 
trifling misdemeanours, many of which had best 
been unnoticed, and in other ways curried favour 
was unprincipled to a degree. He watched like 
a hawk any boy whom he knew the headmaster 
did not view with favour ; while he winked at, 
and in truth connived at, the grossest misconduct 
of those with whom he chose to be friends. I at 
the time believed, and still believe, that he 
must have even connived at one or two of his 
favourites getting out at night into the town. 
I believe, too, that he knew that whiskey was 
brought in by them, and that it was intro- 
duced into the school by other means. His 
bed was arranged at the extremity of a large 
dormitory in which I slept during my last term 
at school. One night I was awakened by 
someone fumbling at the door. I got up and 
opened it to admit this master so drunk that 
he with great difficulty reached his bed. What 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

could be expected of a school with such men 
as masters ? 

A somewhat serious attack of illness sent me 
home not long after this occurrence, and I resolved 
that I would not go back. I had always a great 
desire to be a physician, but I had a horror of the 
sight of blood ; but being told that I must be 
familiar with surgery, even though I never were 
to practice it, 1 had given up the idea. Now, 
however, my determination not to return to 
school decided me to try and overcome this 

My father and mother happened to be from 
home when I arrived, so I first of all spoke to 
the dispensary doctor, who resided in the village 
near us. He encouraged me to enter the 
profession, saying he would give me all the help 
he could. So I wrote to my father, telling him 
of my decision, and begging of him to apprentice 
me to my friend the doctor, reminding him that 
I was now sixteen and a half years old. My 
father readily consented to my becoming a 
doctor, but very wisely objected to my plan of 
education, and in a very short time all was 
settled to my satisfaction by my being apprenticed 
to Mr. Maurice Collis, at that time one of the 
surgeons attached to the Meath Hospital, Dublin. 
This was in June, 1844. 

Apprenticeship at this time had ceased to be 
compulsory, but it was still not uncommon for 


My Irish School 

medical students to be bound to leading surgeons, 
and to me it proved to be a great advantage. 
Mr. Collis was an old friend of my father's, and 
took a great interest in my welfare. After I was 
bound to him he advised my father to let me 
enter Trinity College, Dublin, with the view of 
enabling me to take the M.D. degree, as well as 
that in arts. My father agreed. I passed the 
entrance examination in July, 1844 ; and though 
my entering college entailed the double work of 
reading for the term examinations in classics, 
mathematics, etc., and studying medicine in all 
its branches, including anatomy, physiology, 
chemistry, etc., I undertook it readily. I never 
failed at any examination, though, as I have 
already said, I never had the advantage of private 
tuition in either medicine or classics. The aid of 
a " grinder " in medicine was so universal that for 
a man to obtain his diploma as a surgeon without 
the aid of one was most unusual. 



Improvement of Nassau Street Clearing the slums about St. 
Patrick's Cathedral Sir Benjamin Guinness Better houses 
Dublin to Drogheda by rail "Fly" boats on the canal A 
wretched mode of travelling The canal Accidents and anec- 
dotes The 'bus in the canal Strange method of raising it 
I take to a tricycle and pitch head first into the canal Dublin 
" Charleys " Outside and inside cars The fearsome " first " 
'bus The last sedan-chair First gas lights, bad and few 
Changes Social habits The crinoline period. 

THE Dublin I knew in my childhood and 
youth was very different from the city 
of to-day. Many are the changes which 
have taken place during the seventy-two years 
which have elapsed since I, soon after the 
accession to the throne of Queen Victoria, first 
saw it. Great have been the improvements 
within its bounds, while the miles of suburbs 
now extending around it have been wholly built 
in my time. 

Of improvements, I consider the widening of 
Nassau Street the greatest. In 1838 this street 
was hardly half its present width, and instead 
of the handsome railings which now separate it 
from the College Park, there ran a very high, 
very ugly, very dirty brick wall, so high that 


Dublin Seventy Years Ago 

nothing could be seen over it but the sky, 
while the houses facing it were extremely mean. 
It was a narrow, dirty, shabby thoroughfare. 
Trinity College, I believe, not only gave the 
land needed for the widening of the street, but 
also contributed largely to the cost of the 

Another great improvement effected in recent 
years, which, from a sanitary and philanthropic 
point of view, should be placed first, was the 
sweeping away of the filthy slums which 
surrounded St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the 
opening up the approaches to it. This, and 
the erecting of a number of handsome artizans' 
dwellings, as well as the laying out the 
grounds in front of the cathedral, is due to the 
liberality of Lord Iveagh. The cathedral had 
previously been restored by his father, the late 
Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, at a cost of 
150,000 ; while to Sir Benjamin's eldest son, 
Lord Ardilaun, the city is indebted for the 
handsome park known as St. Stephen's Green, 
which is a great ornament to the city. Before 
he took it in hand the park was nothing more 
than a large, ugly green space, from which the 
public were excluded, while inside the railings 
enclosing it no one was ever seen, except 
occasionally a nurse or two and some children. 
The park is nearly a mile in circumference. 

But were a Rip Van Winkle now to awake, 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

after a seventy years' sleep, he would probably 
be most surprised at the changes which have 
taken place in the fine houses in the streets 
off Mountjoy and Rutland Squares, and in 
some of which he may have been a guest at 
ball or route houses with lofty rooms, many 
of them having ceilings ornamented with 
beautiful stucco work. All these are now mere 
tenement houses, every room probably the home 
of a whole family. The class that formerly 
inhabited them have either, following fashion, 
migrated to the south side of the city, or 
occupied houses erected of recent years in the 
suburbs, tempted there by the facilities afforded 
by the tramways company, whose lines extend 
for miles beyond the confines of the city. 

Then, in 1835, only one railway, the Dublin 
and Kingstown Railway, six miles long, existed 
in Ireland, and it was not till 1844 that the Dublin 
and Drogheda, thirty miles long, was opened, 
not to be completed to Belfast for many long 

Travellers reached Dublin from the provinces 
in those days either by coach or by canal. On 
the latter plied " fly " boats, so-called on account 
of their speed (!), which reached five miles an hour 
when the locks were not numerous, and even six, 
it wasHboasted, on the long, level stretches. 

This was a wretched mode of travelling. The 
boats were of course narrow. A table ran down 


Dublin Seventy Years Ago 

the centre of the cabin, with hard benches on either 
side of it for passengers to sit on, and if there were 
a good many travelling, you found that when once 
seated, it was a difficult matter to move ; so when 
travelling at night, as most people did, one sat 
without moving till morning. All this has long 
since become a thing of the past ; Ireland, for 
its size and population, has as extended a railway 
system as England. 

Speaking of canals, a sad accident of a most 
unusual kind happened, to my knowledge, in one 
of them. It was on a Sunday, I think about 
the year 1860, when I received an urgent 
summons to visit a lady residing in Rathmines, 
a suburb, the road to which crossed the canal 
by a low bridge, which was traversed at short 
intervals by omnibuses. At each side of the 
canal, where the parapet of the bridge ended, 
there was a wide opening leading to the bank 
of the canal, while directly under the bridge, but 
extending beyond it, was a lock, at that moment 
empty, the lower gate having been left open. 
At about 2 p.m. one of the 'buses approached 
the bridge at its usual slow pace ; inside it were 
seven passengers, most of them ladies. All 
went well till, when near the top of the bridge, 
one of the horses became restive, and then began 
to back down the incline. The idea of danger 
seems never to have entered the driver's head. 
Back slowly went the 'bus, not straight, but 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

gradually in a curve, down the roadway to the 
side of the lock, and then down into it, not 
sideways, but back end first, and so that it stood 
upright in the empty lock. The horses, of 
course, were dragged down too, and hung, 
plunging and kicking, suspended by the harness 
and still fastened to the pole. The coachman 
jumped off as the bus went down and rushed 
away, quite out of his mind. There were the 
poor passengers in the deep, dark, but nearly 
dry lock, unable to get out of the omnibus, 
while the horses kicked madly. 

A crowd soon collected, but no one ventured 
to do anything, till some fool called out, " Shut 
the lower gate, fill the lock and the 'bus will 
float ! " His suggestion was acted on with the 
natural result as the water rose the seven 
wretched passengers were drowned, as also were 
the horses. It was to see an aunt of one of these 
unfortunate passengers I was called ; her niece, a 
young, attractive woman, had only an hour or so 
previously left her house full of life. 

Within a few hundred yards of the spot where 
this happened, I, a year after, got a man out of the 
canal who was near being drowned. Driving one 
day along a road close to its bank I heard " Help ! 
help ! " called out loudly, and saw a man in the 
very middle of the canal struggling vainly to 
reach the shore. I knew that, except in the very 
middle, the water was shallow. I jumped out 


Dublin Seventy Years Ago 

of the carriage, unbuckled the reins, and in an 
instant threw him one end which he seized, and 
so I and my coachman succeeded in pulling him 
out. I did not wait to inquire how he got in, 
but whether by accident or on purpose, he got 
such a fright that I think he took care not to 
fall in again. 

But my personal experiences of that part of 
the canal were not yet over. When I was quite 
elderly, bicycles and tricycles began to come into 
vogue, and I got a tricycle at first, mainly with 
the intention of being able to take exercise in 
the spring and summer months after my day's 
work was done ; this usually was about five or 
six o'clock in the day. Naturally I chose the 
smoothest and quietest roads and that running 
along the side of the canal was such. One cold 
March afternoon I started for my first ride for 
the season, and was on this road when I reached 
a point where it was in very bad repair. 

Between me and the canal ran the tow-path, 
which seemed nice and smooth, so I decided to 
get on it. To do this I had to cross a slight 
elevation where I fancy a bank once had been, 
separating the towing path from the road. I 
crossed this obliquely, but the incline towards 
the canal was sharper than I anticipated, and 
when my outside wheel reached the top of the 
rise, the machine overturned and I went head 
foremost into the water, the tricycle falling on 

I.D. 97 G 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

the top of me. Of course I scrambled out in a 
minute, and pulled out the machine, but I had 
got a regular ducking, and must have presented 
a ridiculous figure. Imagine me, an old doctor 
of sixty, dripping from head to foot, for my head 
went in first, and in scrambling out, the water 
was up to my hips ! 

A man coming from one direction came offering 
help, while a respectable woman ran up quickly 
from the other, and with exclamations of pity, 
pulled out a small, clean pocket-handkerchief for 
me to dry myself with. The size of that article 
offered for the purpose seemed so ridiculous that 
1 could not help laughing ; however, it served to 
sop up the water off my face, and, as I shivered 
in the cold wind, I got up on my tricycle and 
rode home as hard as I could. A hot bath taken 
instantly on arrival warded off any subsequent 
trouble, but thereafter I gave the canal a wide 
berth on my rides. 

My first visit to Dublin occurred just before 
the old nightwatchmen " Charleys " they were 
called were abolished. They were a very use- 
less, and, if all said of them be true, a very venal 
lot of old men. The stories told of the pranks 
played on them by the young bloods of the day 
were many. These incapable guardians were 
replaced by " the new police," and very soon a 
reformation in the state of the streets, especially 
at night, followed. 


Dublin Seventy Years Ago 

Then there were no cabs. The Irish " outside 
car," which still holds its own in Dublin, was in 
constant use. The old hackney coaches had 
given place to abominable vehicles known as 
the " inside car," used mainly by elderly ladies, 
but in wet weather by men too, and at night by 
ladies and gentlemen going to the theatre or 
to balls. They were most uncomfortable and 
hideously ugly. 

Imagine a huge governess car, slung between 
a pair of very high wheels, surmounted by a 
body of wood with two little windows in front, 
the door, of course, behind, while the driver was 
perched up in front, his seat being nearly on a 
level with the top. The shafts were raised in 
front, to prevent the weight from resting on the 
horse's back ; so much so that the passenger had 
of necessity to sit at the end of the car next the 
door, otherwise he would slip down to it. 

It was a sight to see a portly old lady getting 
into one of these cars. The driver, of course, 
got down to open and shut the door, and his 
weight being removed from the front, up went the 
shafts high in the air and the fat passenger would 
be literally shoved up the incline and into the 
machine. When the driver had scrambled 
into his seat again equilibrium was somewhat 
restored, and then the jolting began. If you had 
luggage with you it had to be carried inside, and 
it danced about your legs as you jolted on. 

99 G 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

there were three or four passengers, those in front 
slipped down gradually on those in the rear. 

Cabs were not introduced until about the year 
1 860 and came into use very slowly ; indeed, the 
inside car, in a modified form, and locally known 
as a "jingle," exists still in Cork. 

The terms "inside" and "outside" cars 
puzzled strangers greatly, and a German 
gentleman one day asked a jarvey to explain 
the matter to him. This he did promptly, in 
these words, " Why, do ye see, the inside cars 
has their wheels outside, and outside cars their 
wheels inside of them ! " a perfectly correct, if 
not very lucid explanation. I am able to state 
that this story is strictly true, though people 
thought it was invented by a clown who repeated 
it in a pantomime. 

Omnibuses were not introduced into Dublin till 
about 1850, and then for a long time plied only on 
one route. So you had either to take an inside 
or outside car, or walk, and walk most of us did, 
and, no doubt, were all the healthier for so doing. 
I had a standing invitation to go to dine whenever 
I liked with a family whose avenue gate was a 
little distance beyond the five-milestone from 
Dublin. I used to walk all the way there 
regularly once or twice a month and back again 
after 10 p.m., and thought nothing of it. Now, 
what with electric trams running in every 
direction (one takes you very near that house for 


Dublin Seventy Years Ago 

threepence), and with the universal bicycle, 
walking seems doomed to become a lost art. 

The introduction of the inside car put an end 
to the general use of sedan-chairs ; for, notwith- 
standing the discomfort of the former, they were 
the handier and cheaper of the two. But in my 
student days sedan-chairs were not extinct, and 
occasionally you would see an elderly lady or 
some old swell borne in one of them by two men, 
sometimes in full livery, to a dinner party or 
dance ; indeed, it is not so long since the last of 
these was removed from its stand at the corner 
of Hume Street, where it had rested unused for 

The oil lamps with which the city had been 
previously lighted had given place to gas ere I 
knew Dublin, but gas lighting was in its infancy, 
and, as far as brilliancy was concerned, was no 
great improvement. The gas was bad, the 
lamp-posts far apart, and, though used for 
lighting the streets and public rooms, was rarely 
seen in private houses. There, wax candles were 
the correct thing, while amongst the poor dip- 
candles were the sole illuminant. In 1838 the 
streets of Dublin remained very dark, and were 
not quite safe at night. Now they are brilliant 
with electric light ; and in this and many other 
things such a revolution has taken place since my 
childhood as the younger generation can hardly 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

The changes in the social habits of the upper 
classes is hardly less marked than are those in 
respect to locomotion. There used to be 
promenades in the squares on every Sunday 
afternoon, those in Merrion Square being specially 
well attended and select, and during the summer 
months there were promenades on certain week- 
days also, when a band would play. 

If you went to any of these you would be sure 
to meet many acquaintances, and I think their 
total cessation is a matter to be regretted. It 
was a pretty sight, too, to watch the well-dressed 
assemblage. The ladies' attire differed much 
from that now in vogue. Hats were unknown. 
Old and young alike wore bonnets, and very 
becoming they were. White stockings, too, were 
the fashion. Very anxious were the ladies that 
no soil or speck should mar them no easy matter 
to avoid when walking the streets of " dear, dirty 
Dublin " and often did I wonder how the girls 
managed to keep them so clean. Shoes with 
sandals were the correct thing. 

Then came that hideous crinoline period, so 
well depicted in the pages of Punch, as ugly as 
inconvenient. If you got into a covered car or 
even a carriage with a lady, this affair had to be 
turned up like a huge screen, or no space would 
be left. One day I was walking with two young 
ladies when a man passed us with a piece of 
broken metal in his hand, it caught the dress of 


Dublin Seventy Years Ago 

one of them and made a large angular rent in it, 
through which the wire hoops of her crinoline 
could be seen. How such accidents did not 
oftener happen, with dresses some five or more 
feet in diameter, is a wonder. As a rule, ladies 
disliked the fashion. Yet very few had courage 
to omit wearing the monstrosities. But are not 
the enormous hats now worn, even by quite old 
women, as absurd and as inconvenient as were 
the crinolines ? 

The dinner hour, too, has now become so 
much later that, as a result, luncheon has become 
an important meal ; formerly a sandwich would 
suffice, or for young people perhaps bread- and- 
jam, while supper parties, which were then quite 
common, are now, except, indeed, at a restaurant 
after the play, things of the past. Their cessation 
is not to be regretted, for too often they ended 
in undue consumption of whiskey punch. 




Changes caused by the introduction of steam locomotion No annual 
holidays Occasional long visits to friends I have no holiday 
for twenty-five years The price of postage prohibitive Abuse 
of "franking" abolished by penny post Shocking railway 
carriages A " fourth " class Luggage arrangements Incidents 
on the rail I am sent to the scene of an accident Potato famine 
stops enterprise The strange story of a 20 note Telegraphs 
Evolution of the Irish newspaper The Sounders' Newsletter 
Freemaris Journal The Daily Express Daniel O'Connell and 
Lady Morgan A remarkable blind beggar. 

IF home life and social habits have changed 
greatly, mainly by the decrees of fashion, 
even to a greater degree have they been 
affected by the facilities for movement afforded 
by the introduction of steam. Especially affected 
by this is that great assemblage comprised in the 
term " The Middle Classes," which includes the 
families of professional men of all callings, civil 
servants, and the many engaged in a multitude 
of other avocations. 

Seventy years ago the members of these 
families were stay-at-homes. Travelling was 
tedious and expensive, and the annual holiday, 
now universal, unknown. During the long 
vacation, some of the members of the legal 


Of the Beginnings of Many Things 

profession would stay away, but for the family 
or even a part of it to go off, as is now the case, 
was not thought of. A visit to relatives or friends, 
which meant a good long stay for the parents, 
accompanied by one or more grown-up daughters, 
was not uncommon ; or a lodge or apartments 
might be taken every second or third year at a 
quiet seaside place, or some other attractive spot, 
not so far off that it could not be reached in a day's 
drive. Such a holiday, when it occurred, would 
be a matter talked of for a long time before, and 
furnished a theme for gossip subsequently. 

The wealthy landowner occasionally built a 
" lodge," at a place where bathing could be 
indulged in during the summer, or shooting 
obtained in winter, to which the family and 
servants would migrate. But hotels such as are 
now to be seen everywhere did not exist. Doubt- 
less there were many inns along the coach routes 
at which travellers stayed for a night, but no one 
thought of remaining at one of these unless 
detained by illness or business. 

For myself, though I went from time to time 
during my early professional life to visit and 
spend a week or so at the house of some relatives, 
I never took such a holiday as is now understood 
by the term till I had been some twenty-five 
years in practice, and never a full month till I 
retired altogether. I quite approve of the hard- 
worked breadwinner having his holiday, but as 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

a rule he needs rest, not perpetual travel, from 
which so many now annually return, weary in 
body and impoverished in purse. 

Communication by letter was in my childhood 
as restricted as was travel, and very expensive. 
A letter from Dublin to our post town cost 
ninepence, and from most parts of England two- 
and-sixpence ; indeed, on every letter I received 
from home during my first year at Maidstone 
the postage was two-and-ninepence, consequently 
those received or written were few and far 

No doubt the system of " franking," a privilege 
enjoyed by peers and members of parliament, 
mitigated in a trifling degree the severity of the 
impost, at least, to those who could get a member 
to frank a letter for him, which was done by his 
affixing his signature in the left-hand corner of 
the letter. This privilege was greatly abused. 
Some members affixed their signature to any 
number of letters, although they were restricted 
to two a day ; but, provided they were posted in 
different post offices and addressed to different 
localities, detection was impossible. This system 
was put an end to when the penny postage came 

The carriages for railways were built at first 
exactly on the pattern of the old coaches, and it 
looked as if the bodies of three or four of them 
had been bolted together and put on a truck. 


The luggage, too, was placed on the roof and 
covered with a tarpaulin strapped down, just as 
in the old coaching days ; while, to complete the 
resemblance, the guard was perched on the top 
of a carriage with his feet on a footboard. Of 
course there were, I presume, no tunnels and few 
bridges to pass under on the lines on which I 
saw this arrangement, and the speed of the trains 
seldom exceeded twenty miles an hour. 

As to the luggage, the plan of carrying it on 
the top of the carriage you travelled in did 
well enough if you were to arrive at a terminus, 
but to get luggage down at a roadside station 
involved much trouble and delay. The third- 
class carriages were merely wooden boxes, open 
on the sides, placed on trucks ; on some lines 
there was a fourth class, consisting of trucks 
pure and simple, with a bench running round the 
sides. These benches were quickly occupied, 
and later passengers had to stand. I travelled 
in one of these so-called carriages in Yorkshire 
once, but at the second stoppage had to leave it 
and get into a second-class one. Their use was 
interdicted ere long. 

Then, if an engine broke down, electric 
telegraphy being unknown, the passengers had 
to wait till the next train came up. On two 
occasions the engines drawing the train I was 
in broke down at about 8 or 9 p.m. On the 
first occasion I spent the night till 5 a.m. at 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

a wretched little roadside station, without a 
fire, and without the possibility of getting as 
much as a cup of tea. On the second, we had 
to remain in the train, as we were not near a 
station, till about the same hour in the morning, 
when the night mail train came up and brought 
us on. On that occasion a fellow passenger who 
was coming up to attend a grand fancy-dress 
ball, arrived just in time to see the last of the 
tired-out, dilapidated -looking waiters walking 
out of the public rooms in which it had been held. 

But far worse was the result of a similar 
breakdown of an engine, in broad daylight, 
which occurred near Sallins Station some sixteen 
miles from Dublin about this time. It was being 
followed by a heavy goods train, the driver of 
which seems not to have kept a good look-out. 
Anyway, his train dashed into the standing one, 
nine passengers, I think, being killed and many 
injured. On hearing of the accident I, then a 
young man, was sent down by the insurance 
company to render aid, and I shall never forget the 
sight of the bodies of those ladies and gentlemen 
lying side by side in a shed close to the station. 
One gentleman's head had been cut off as by an 

The terrible poverty which overwhelmed 
Ireland as the result of the potato famine put a 
stop for a time to railway enterprise in that 
country, and great inconvenience was caused by 


Of the Beginnings of Many Things 

the long delay in completing even the main lines. 
There was no money in the country. English 
capitalists had little confidence in the future of 
any Irish undertaking, and the Government, 
while sanctioning lavish expenditure of money 
on useless roads in out-of-the-way districts, 
would not advance any to be expended on the 
opening up of the country by the making of 
railways, or even towards completing the main 
lines all which have since proved financial 

Thus years elapsed before the line between 
Dublin and Belfast was complete. There was a 
gap of over fifty miles between Drogheda and 
Portadown, where the line from Belfast stopped. 
This gap had to be traversed if at night, by mail 
coach ; if by day, on long, two-horse car, which, 
if it had springs at all, nevertheless jolted one so 
horribly that their existence could hardly be 
deemed possible. As a consequence of this break 
an acquaintance of mine had a curious experience 
with a 20 banknote. Travelling to Dublin 
from Belfast, he had changed to the mail coach 
at Portadown and by it reached Drogheda some- 
where about 4 a.m. There he purchased a 
ticket to Dublin, handing in what he thought 
was a l note and receiving from the clerk the 
correct change as if it had been such. Next 
morning he discovered on examining his pocket- 
book that the 20 note was gone Obviously he 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

must have handed it by mistake to the clerk, for 
he had no money with him except the two notes, 
and that for l was safe in his pocket-book. 

Telegrams being unknown, he had no resource 
but to go to the Dublin terminus and tell his 
story, to be informed that as the clerk at 
Drogheda had sent in all money received by him 
up to 9 a.m., and as his accounts were perfectly 
correct, they feared the 20 note had not come 
into his hand ; but that they would make inquiries 
and directed him to call the next day. On his 
doing so, he was rejoiced to have his money 
handed him. It had been brought to the office 
by a gentleman, late the day before. He, too, 
had travelled from Belfast by the mail on the pre- 
ceding night, and had handed the booking clerk 
a 5 note saying that he had none for a smaller 
amount, and had received as change what he 
assumed to be four l notes and some silver, all 
of which he put into his pocket without examin- 
ing, as he was in a hurry to secure his seat, there 
being a good many passengers clamouring for 

On arriving at his hotel he went to bed, and 
did not get up till near midday ; then, having 
dressed and lunched, he went and voted at the 
election for a member of parliament for the 
University then being held. Later in the day he 
proceeded to do some business in the town, one 
matter being to pay a bill for a small amount 


Of the Beginnings of Many Things 

due to his bootmaker, and for this purpose handed 
him what he supposed to be a l note. The 
man looked at it, said he was sorry he had not 
change for a note of that amount, and that the 
banks had closed. The gentleman could not at 
first understand what was the difficulty, as he 
only expected a shilling or so of change, and 
some minutes elapsed ere he realised that he had 
received 23 in exchange for his 5 note. Then, 
seeing that he must have got the note from the 
clerk at Drogheda, he took it at once to the head 
office. Thus a 20 note passed through three 
hands before its value was realised by the fourth 
to whom it was presented. All the parties 
were pleased at the result. The loser was glad 
to get back a sum of money he could ill spare, 
and the finder to be able to clear the clerk from 
any possible suspicion of dishonesty which might 
have rested on him had not the note been traced. 
Hardly second in importance to the introduction 
of steam as a means of locomotion on sea and 
land has been the harnessing of electricity, which 
in my youth was only known as a phenomenon 
to be exhibited at some scientific lecture. The 
electric telegraph, so far as our planet is concerned, 
has virtually annihilated time and space ; while 
electricity as a motive power already threatens 
the supremacy of steam, though what it is remains 
unknown. Man's intellect has failed to discover 
this. It may be that the human mind has in 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

this direction come to its limit. The fiat may have 
gone forth, " So far shalt thou go and no farther " ; 
but whether this be so or not, certain it is that 
the uses of electricity will in the near future be 
largely extended, but to what extent it is im- 
possible even to guess. 

Little less wonderful has been the marvellous 
evolution of the newspaper and the extension of 
the influence of the press which has taken place 
within the last fifty years. In my student days 
there was, to the best of my belief, but one daily 
paper published in Ireland The Saunders News- 
letter, " price fourpence." It was what was 
called a " scissors paper," the contents, of course 
excluding advertisements, being made up nearly 
altogether of matter copied from English papers 
and which nowadays would be considered quite 
stale. News published in London or Manchester 
on a Monday would not as a rule appear until 

I have by me a copy of this paper of June 19, 
1 824 (that, of course, was before I was bom) . In it 
is published the summary of the proceedings of 
parliament on June 15. This copy consists of one 
sheet of four pages ; each page is twenty inches 
long by thirteen in width, and contains four 
columns. Of the sixteen columns in the whole 
paper, not quite six are devoted to "news," and 
under that term are included two devoted to par- 
liamentary proceedings. Of the two remaining 


Of the Beginnings of Many Things 

columns, more than half of one is taken up with 
the account of the search for the body of a poor 
malformed child which had been exhibited as a 
wonder under the title of " The Sicilian Dwarf," 
though it had been born in Ireland. 

The rest of the paper is taken up with 
advertisements greatly spaced out, amongst 
them one announcing the sale by the Customs 
of 517,000 Ib. of " seized and legally condemned 
tobacco." The paper also contains an 
advertisement stating that a charity sermon 
would be preached on the ensuing Sunday, in St. 
George Church, Dublin, by the Rev. Wm. Atthill 
(my father). This paper was given to me by an 
old patient who remembered him. The paper 
had no leading article of any description ; and as 
to politics it was colourless and so continued 
till its demise some forty years ago. 

As far as I know this was the only daily paper 
in my early days. The Freemaris Journal which, 
though established as early as 1763, did not become 
such till it came into the possession of the late 
Sir John Grey. Sir John was a man of great 
ability, and it is mainly owing to his exertions, and 
to the influence which his paper had gained, that 
the citizens of Dublin are indebted for the ample 
supply of pure soft water it now possesses. The 
Act authorizing the formation of the Vartry 
reservoir was obtained hi 1861. 

As the price of Saunders Newsletter was 

I.D. 113 H 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

quite above its value, and as fourpence a copy 
was a heavy tax on persons of limited means, 
there was a regular trade established for the 
lending of it at a penny per hour. One person got 
it, say, at eight o'clock ; it would be called for at 
nine o'clock, when his neighbour had it, and so on ; 
or you could buy one of these copies in the after- 
noon for twopence, and then, as they were all 
impressed with a Government stamp, you could 
forward it to a friend postage free. 

About 1853 Tlie Daily Express was established. 
It had leading articles and a strong political bias ; 
and, as it was double the size of Saunders, at 
once became a formidable competitor. It, too, 
used to be lent out for an hour, and its proprietors 
organised a system which enabled travellers on 
the Dublin and Kingstown line of railway to have 
a read for a penny while travelling. You could 
buy a copy for fourpence at either terminus, but 
the man at the other end would take it back from 
you, giving you threepence ; the journey occupied 
half an hour. This system must have paid well. 

It was from a copy thus taken by me to read 
in the train that I first learned of the death of 
my old schoolfellow, Major Baldwin, already 
alluded to. Sounders gradually sank and died 
out under the competition which ensued on 
the repeal of the duty on paper, the Act 
requiring every copy to be stamped before be- 
ing issued. It had a very long and, from a 


Of the Beginnings of Many Things 

commercial point of view, successful career. In 
my youth a weekly paper sufficed for the great 
majority of the country gentlemen. 

Dan O'Connell, as he was universally called, 
and who occupied such a large space in the 
history of Irish politics, was still much before the 
public while I was a student. I well remember 
seeing him walking down Sackville Street with his 
cloak wrapped about him, a large, burly man ; but 
his health was breaking down, and it was this 
reason that made him begin to wear the cloak. 
In his statue on the monument erected to his 
memory in Sackville Street he is portrayed as 
wearing the cloak. Many of his friends objected 
to this, as it represents him in the period of his 
decline. I remember Sir Dominic Corrigan 
expressing himself very strongly on this point ; 
indeed, I think he resigned his seat on the com- 
mittee entrusted with the task of erecting the 
statue in consequence ; certainly he told me he 
would do so. 

Speaking of O'Connell reminds me of Lady 
Morgan, a contemporary of his, who, though no 
longer living in Dublin, was often spoken of. She 
was a remarkable woman, an authoress, a great con- 
versationalist, and for years a prominent person- 
age in Irish society. While young she attracted 
the attention of Lady Abercorn, who took her 
into her household, where she met Dr. Morgan, a 
man much her senior, whom she finally and rather 

115 H 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

reluctantly married. The marriage proved a 
happy one. Lady Abercorn induced the Lord 
Lieutenant to confer knighthood on the doctor, 
and they settled in Dublin. Her name, coupled 
with O'Connell's, was introduced into a ballad I 
used often to hear quoted. It ran thus : 

" O Dublin, dear, there is no doubting, 

Beats every city upon the sea, 
For there you'll hear O'Connell spouting 

And Lady Morgan drinking tea, 
Eor 'tis the capital of the greatest nation, 

With the finest pisintry on fruitful sod 
Fighting like for conciliation 

And murdering each other for the love of God." 

I quote from memory as I heard it repeated. 
I never saw the verse in print. 

A remarkable character, but of a very different 
class, passed away about the time I entered 
college, namely, Zozimus, the blind beggar. 
This man would post himself in a quiet corner 
off a busy thoroughfare or, indeed, sometimes in 
a much-frequented street, and would quickly be 
surrounded by a crowd, listening to his witty 
remarks or to his replies to questions put to him 
lybystanders who invariably got the worst of 
it ; or, more frequently, listening while he recited 
a ballad it might be an impromptu, but more 
often one composed by himself previously. I 
recollect one of these in doggerell verse, descrip- 
tive of the finding of Moses amongst the 


Of the Beginnings of Many Things 

bulrushes. After alluding to the decree 
ordering the destruction of all male Hebrew 
infants, he described Pharaoh's daughter as 
" Walking along the banks of the Nile " and 
preparing to bathe. Then came a couple of 
lines I still remember : 

" She jumped into the water to wash her skin, 
Coming out she kicked the basket the child lay in," 

and so on. 

But in truth neither his witty replies nor 
ballads were calculated to improve the morals of 
his hearers, though nothing absolutely improper 
was ever uttered by him. Often he was very 
amusing, as when on one occasion a lot of street 
Arabs were pestering him, he suddenly stopped 
in the middle of his recitation and, sweeping his 
stick angrily all round him, exclaimed : 

" Begone, yes blackguards ! I know yes well, 
Far better than the tongue can tell." 

He received a good deal of money, and his 
fame is not, even yet, extinct in Dublin. 



Life of a medical student Bleeding still practised Operations before 
anaesthetics The happiest year of my life was 1846 My brother 
and I go yachting A memorable night The yacht is crippled 
My home life ends Home memories. 

THE life of a medical student has not varied 
materially since I was one, sixty-five years 
ago. Then, as now, there were the steady 
and industrious, the idle and the dissipated ; but 
as to the length of time to be devoted to the study 
of medicine, in the methods of teaching and in the 
subjects to be taught, there has been a vast 
change. At that time a surgical diploma might 
be, and as in my own case was, obtained in three 
years ; now five years' study is compulsory. 
The subjects to be studied have increased in 
number, and the methods of teaching altered ; 
but these changes, great and important as they 
are, are little in comparison with the revolution 
which has taken place in the practice of both 
medicine and surgery during the last fifty 

Everyone has read or heard of the practice, in 
bygone days, of bleeding patients from a vein 
in the arm for every form of real or imaginary 


Sunshine and Clouds 

disease. This practice, though on the wane when 
I became a student, had not been wholly given up. 
I was taught to bleed before I was an apprentice 
a month. But apart from this, the revolution 
which has taken place in other respects in my 
days are so great as probably to seem incredible, 
at least to the younger portion of the present 

Now, if an operation has to be performed, the 
patient inhales an anaesthetic frequently as he or 
she lies in bed, is removed while unconscious to 
the operating theatre, and after a time awakes 
to find himself still in bed, but to be told that 
the dreaded operation is " all over." 

Formerly the patient would most probably 
have walked to the operation room, would have 
been terrified by seeing the needful preparations 
made, and been in an agony of fear at the thought 
of the sufferings to be endured. Assistants would 
be standing by to hold him down in case he 
struggled, and often the patient had to be 
strapped down. A few, but only a few, bore 
heroically the pain which must be inflicted by 
even the most skilful surgeon ; and the groans, 
cries and struggles of the many were most 
distressing to hear and see. Now all is done in 
perfect stillness ; there is no need to hurry, as 
there is no pain to be borne. Formerly the 
mortality after operations was very great, even 
in favourable cases. Now a fatal termination is 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

comparatively rare, and in favourable cases 
virtually never occurs. Formerly the wounds 
inflicted by the surgeon required weeks, indeed, 
not infrequently months, to heal. Now it is 
generally a matter of merely a few days. All this 
is due to the use of the antiseptic methods 
introduced by Lord Lister, to whom the whole 
world owes a debt of gratitude which neither 
money nor the title so worthily bestowed could 
repay. To-day thousands of sufferers are 
annually restored to health who, less than fifty 
years ago, would certainly have died. 

Looking back on the years long passed, 1845, 
the second year of my apprenticeship, seems to me 
the happiest year in my whole life. I was 
greatly interested in my professional studies, 
especially so in hospital work. I had pleased my 
father by my application and steadiness, and as, 
to my inexperienced eyes, his health seemed 
fairly good, there was nothing to mar the 
summer vacation, the last I ever spent in the 
dear home of my childhood. My eldest brother, 
then a widower, was over on a visit, and he 
aided us in buying a small yacht, in which we 
sailed over the waters of lovely Lough Erne, 
which afforded me the greatest possible pleasure. 
We would land on one of the numerous islands 
in the lough, light a fire, and have what seemed 
to me a delicious picnic. The lunch would be 
composed, however, of only the plainest materials, 


Sunshine and Clouds 

of which the invariable potful of boiled potatoes 
formed a prominent part. But how we ever 
escaped being drowned I know not. We kept no 
sailor, and none of us really understood the 
management of a sail, though an elder brother 
who sometimes accompanied us thought he did ; 
and that lake is a treacherous and dangerous one, 
squalls coming down suddenly from the hills. 
Often, too, it was very rough, so much so that I 
have been seasick on it. But of that we took 
but little heed. 

On one never-to-be-forgotten night we were 
becalmed miles from home, and had to spend the 
night on a small, uninhabited island on which we 
landed after dark, the boat being anchored close 
inshore. We speedily lighted a fire, made a 
hearty meal of such food as remained to us, and 
slept soundly under the trees, with a blanket, 
which just covered the four of us, as a protection 
from the heavy dew. The yacht was too small 
to admit of our sleeping on board. 

But more vivid still is the recollection of the 
last sail I ever had on that lake. One day, late 
in the autumn, I and a brother somewhat older 
than myself, decided to go out alone. When we 
reached the shore we found it was blowing so 
hard that my brother was against our starting ; 
but I overcame his reluctance, and away we 
went, steering for an island some four miles off, 
and though it was blowing hard we almost 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

reached it. But to get into shelter and to a safe 
anchorage we had to tack to clear a point lying 
outside our intended landing place. In doing 
this, our little boat missed stays in the heavy 
sea which was running on the point, and was 
driven on to the rocks. My brother could not 
swim ; I could, so instantly stripping off my 
coat 1 jumped out to find myself in shallow 
water. We quickly lowered our sails and 
endeavoured with poles to get off again, but our 
strength was insuffici ent for the task. Fortunately 
help soon came, for the farmer who lived on the 
island saw us, and he and his man ran down to our 
aid, and with their help we succeeded in getting 
our little yacht into a sheltered anchorage ; but 
her rudder was smashed, and other damage done 
which rendered returning in her impossible. 

The hospitable farmer brought us to his cottage, 
where his wife boiled potatoes for us and dried 
our clothes. Then he took us in his boat and 
landed us on a large island about half a mile off. 
This island was nearly three miles long, its length 
running parallel to the shore of the mainland, 
and we knew that at its extreme end we would 
be able to get a boat to put us ashore, the channel 
there being narrow. 

But we had to walk more than two miles to 
reach that point, and after that four more to 
tramp to our home, and it was getting late. 

I had on a pair of old shoes which had been 

Sunshine and Clouds 

re-soled. These had become soaked, for I had been 
standing in water up to my waist for a long time 
while trying to save the boat; and during our long 
tramp down the island the soles loosened, and I 
had to pull the loose soles off, and walk the rest 
of the way as best I could. We got home long 
after dark, wet, weary, and very hungry, but 
quite cheery. 

But our crippled yacht had to be got to her 
moorings preparatory to hauling her up for the 
winter, during which she would be repaired. To 
accomplish this it was necessary to get the loan 
of a large boat belonging to a friend, and tow her 
home. We decided to do this the very next 
day if fine. Now, I used, during vacation, to help 
our doctor, on each of his dispensary days, to 
make up medicine for the poor ; and as the day 
following our adventure was one of these, my 
brother agreed to meet me at twelve o'clock. 
We would then go on and get the boat back. He 
was to bring our lunch with him. But twelve 
o'clock, came and he did not appear, so on I went 
alone, supposing he would overtake me, which he 
never did. He said afterwards that he considered 
it was too stormy. I arrived at the spot where my 
friend's boat lay, and got on board her, with his 
two sailors. We soon reached our derelict yacht, 
and were quickly under way, having her in tow. 
Then I began to feel the pangs of hunger, for I 
had tasted nothing since an eight o'clock breakfast. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

But there was nothing for me to eat ! the sailors 
had dined in their cottages before I arrived, and 
there was not a scrap of food in the boat. 

Our little yacht was fitted with lockers, and it 
occurred to me there might be something in them 
that could be eaten. So, hauling her close up 
to us, I scrambled on board to find them locked 
and I without keys. I soon forced the lock, to 
discover just one apple much decayed, about a 
couple of square inches of very dry cheese and 
ascraping of jam in the bottom of a pot not 
a sumptuous lunch for a very hungry lad of 
seventeen, but I spread the jam on the cheese, 
and finished with all that was eatable of the apple, 
and felt better. 

That ended not only my yachting season, but 
virtually my home life. I went up to Dublin a 
few weeks later, and I only returned in the 
following summer for a short stay. Then, my 
father's health compelling him to seek further 
medical advice, I left home with him, never to 
return, for he died at his son's house the following 
spring, and the glebe house passed into the 
hands of a stranger. 

What is it that attaches us all, poor and rich 
alike, to the home of our childhood and infancy ? 
Mine had little really attractive about it a plain, 
square, two-story parsonage, standing on the side 
of a hill which had been bare till a few years 
before my birth, when plantations had been laid 


Sunshine and Clouds 

out round it by my father. The view on either 
side was bounded by hills still barer and higher, 
separated from us by only a couple of fields. But 
from the front the lake could be seen distinctly 
just two miles off. We had no near neighbours : 
I had no boys of my own age to play with. Yet I 
loved the place, and when seriously ill of 
typhoid fever forty years ago, I invariably, on 
rousing from my restless, troubled sleep, had the 
gate lodge, with the large beech tree which grew 
beside it, pictured, as it were, before my eyes. I 
can realise what the poet Cowper's feelings must 
have been when he wrote that beautiful poem in 
memory of his mother. 



Potato blight appears in 1846 Conditions of people in 1847 "awful" 
Potatoes almost the only food of the people Easy way of 
getting married Also an easy path to poverty Runaway 
matches Rotting potatoes Stench from the fields The starving 
people Plenty of money but no food Waste of money on 
useless " relief works " Maize meal adds to the misery and 
death rate Its preparation not understood Derelict " relief 
works " I become a fullblown surgeon. 

-p^HE potato blight, as it was called, mani- 
fested itself in the summer of 1846, and 
during the succeeding winter the great 

{scarcity of food pressed with daily increasing 
severity on the poor, while in 1847 the condition 
of matters in Ireland became awful. 

For many years previously the great mass of 
the rural population had lived solely on potatoes. 
Early marriages were the rule, and it was quite 
common for lads of eighteen or twenty to 
marry, settling down in a cabin built of sods, 
and living a life little above that of a pig which 
animal, indeed, was often the joint occupier of 
the cabin, if the price of a young one could by 
any means be scraped together. This was the 
era when the morality of the Irish peasant was 
so conspicuous. 


The Potato Famine 

There was in those days an easy way of 
getting married if parents objected. The boy 
and girl would " run away " together some 
evening after dark to a neighbour's house, where 
they would be almost invariably received. The 
news would gradually spread of what had 
occurred, the neighbours would flock in, and 
whiskey would soon be forthcoming, for many 
of those who came would bring some with them, 
and the night would be spent in singing songs 
and general gaiety. The " runaway " pair always 
sat up the whole night through with the 

In the morning the lad would return to his 
father's house, but the girl remained behind. 
The pair saw little of each other till the wedding 
took place, which it always did with the least 
possible delay; for the girl would never be 
permitted to re-enter her parents' house till she 
was married. 

I knew of many of these runaway matches, 
and in 1 846, our housemaid having gone off thus 
one evening with a lad who worked for my 
father, I and my brother went to the house 
where they were, and stayed some time to see 
what was going on. 

No wonder, then, that Ireland was over- 
populated, or that it had eight million inhabi- 
tants within its narrow limits, two-thirds of 
whom lived nearly wholly on potatoes ! 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

Well do I remember the beginning of the 
catastrophe which depopulated Ireland, and for a 
time paralyzed the country. As early as May, 
1846, attention was called to the disease, which, 
appearing first amongst potatoes planted in rich 
land on which they had been grown for years 
without intermission, soon spread in all direc- 
tions. As the summer advanced, not a district 
in the whole island but was affected. 

My father, being obliged to go to Dublin to 
obtain medical advice, and being unable to bear 
the jolting of a stage coach or the fatigue of 
such a journey, travelled in a carriage by easy 
stages, staying for a day or two at the houses 
of friends en route till we reached Drogheda, 
from whence the railway was open to 

I travelled with him, and, sitting on the box 
seat with the coachman, and thus having an 
extended view, soon began to realise as I had 
not done previously, what just grounds there 
were for the universal alarm which existed. 

Driving, say, for half a mile or more through 
smiling meadow or pasture lands, you would 
suddenly perceive an offensive stench, borne on 
the wind ; then into view would come a field, 
often of large size, one mass of blackened stalks, 
a clear indication that the tubers were already 

But no one yet realised the full extent of the 

The Potato Famine 

awful calamity which had befallen the country. 
The old crop lasted yet a while, and for a time 
oatmeal could be had, though at enhanced prices. 
And it was not till the new year (1847) had 
fairly set in that the cry came from every quarter 
that "the people were starving." 

Then money was freely given, coming mainly 
from England, and was also voted by parliament, 
to be expended on relief works. But the great 
difficulty was to bring food to the starving 
people ; indeed, it was almost impossible to convey 
it in sufficient quantities to those living in 
remote districts along the west coast of Ireland, 
where the people were dying daily by hundreds. 
There were virtually no railways in Ireland then, 
and the food stuffs had to be carted from the 
sea-ports and through districts often without 
roads ; and when it did reach these poor, famished 
people, it was mainly in the form of the then, 
to them, unknown Indian meal an excellent 
food, but requiring to be thoroughly cooked to 
be digestible. This they did not realise, and it 
was largely consumed when not half boiled, and, 
sad to say, instead of nourishing the people, 
actually increased the mortality, inducing, as it 
did, bowel complaints that soon proved fatal. 

The relief works, too, when started, were for the 
most part not only of a useless nature, but very 
badly managed. There was no proper organisa- 
tion and little, if, indeed any, supervision. A 

I.D, 129 i 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

batch of men would be started, say, to cut down 
a hill on some out-of-the-way road : they 
dawdled, worked in fits and starts, and in the 
cold, wet weather got chilled, and died by the 
score. Then roads were laid out, and never 
finished ; and, in truth, most of these would have 
been, if finished, absolutely useless. 

Throughout the whole of Ireland the same 
system existed, and when, several years later, the 
relief works were closed, there was not a county 
in Ireland in which many roads were not left in 
an almost impassable state hills half cut down, 
hollows partially filled, nothing completed. 
What between want, waste, ignorance, inca- 
pacity and mismanagement vast sums of money 
were uselessly expended, and thousands of lives 
lost which might have been saved. For twenty 
years after the famine many roads in all parts of 
Ireland remained in the conditions I have 
described, and not a few remain so to the present 
day, while new ones laid out remain derelict. 
I speak of what I have seen myself, not from 

One man in his place in parliament urged that 
the money voted be expended in building trunk 
lines of railway, which were greatly needed, but 
the Government of the day turned a deaf ear to 
his entreaties. Lord George Bentinck spoke in 
vain, and this great opportunity of benefiting 
the country permanently was lost ; moreover, 


The Potato Famine 

had the money voted been so expended, it would 
have proved a remunerative investment, and the 
Irish railways would now be the property of the 

I was resident in Dublin during the first two 
years of the famine, for but little more than 
half of the five years for which I had been 
bound were expired when my father died, and 
his income dying with him I feared that means 
might be wanting to admit of my serving out 
my time. Therefore, as soon as I had com- 
pleted the three years' curriculum of lectures and 
hospital attendance required by the College of 
Surgeons from candidates for their diploma, 
I explained to Mr. Collis my position, and begged 
time to sanction my presenting myself for 
examination. This he reluctantly did, and 
passing it, I found myself a full-blown surgeon 
when only nineteen years and a half old. This 
was in July, 1847. Fortunately, I was enabled 
to remain in Dublin for another year, and then 
tried to complete my university course. 

131 i 2 


A qualified surgeon Appointed to the Fleet Street Dispensary 
Appalling condition of sick poor of Dublin Tenement houses 
The voice from the far corner I wish to remove to a hunting 
country as dispensary doctor I withdraw and am not elected 
A strange request Surgeon to the Geashill Dispensary Primi- 
tive arrangements My lodgings in the thatched cottage 
Famine distress still continues Food very scarce Population 
diminished through death and emigration I am as poor as my 
neighbours I move to Dublin in 1850. 

BEING now a qualified surgeon, I succeeded 
in obtaining during the winter of 1847-48, 
an appointment on the staff of a charitable 
institution, known as the Fleet Street Dispensary, 
established with the view of affording medical 
attendance to the sick poor, who were visited 
at their homes as well as prescribed for at the 
institution. None of the staff received any 
remuneration ; on the contrary, we were required 
to obtain two subscribers of l Is. each or 
pay these subscriptions out of our own pockets ! 
I gladly accepted the appointment on these 
terms, for I hoped to gain some experience 

The condition of the sick poor in Dublin was 
at this date and for many years subsequently 


I Begin to Practise 

truly appalling. The famine, due to the failure of 
the potato crop, had lasted for a year and a half. 
In all parts of the country there was the 
greatest distress, and in remote districts absolute 
starvation ; hundreds died of starvation, thousands 
of " famine fever, " as it was termed, typhoid not 
having been recognised or known, while typhus 
in its worst form was epidemic. Whole districts 
were depopulated by famine and fever, thousands 
emigrated to America, while the towns and cities 
were crowded by hosts of starving men, women 
and children, who thronged the streets begging 
for food. Some sought employment which 
could not be obtained, while hospitals and poor- 
houses were filled to excess. Temporary hospitals, 
known as the " fever sheds," were erected outside 
the city, but even these failed to supply sufficient 
accommodation for the famine-stricken multitude 
of sick. What the work of the dispensary doctor 
who laboured amongst this poverty-stricken 
mass of humanity was like, when overtaken by 
disease, may be imagined, but can hardly be 

The tenement houses in which the poor lived 
were crowded from attic to cellar. I have known 
four families, each consisting of several individuals, 
living in one small room, a corner allotted to 
each family, without a stick of furniture amongst 
them. One instance I never shall forget. I 
narrate it to give some idea of the hopelessness 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

of the task devolving on the medical man at 
this sad period. My district embraced the low- 
lying slums contiguous to the river Liffey. One 
day I received a ticket directing me to visit a 
woman in one of these streets, not of the worst 
class. Calling at the address given, I was told 
that the patient lived in the " kitchen," and as 
there was no communication between the house 
proper and the so-called kitchen I had to go 
out of the front door and down into the area to 
gain entrance. There I found the woman in a 
veritable cellar, into which neither air nor light 
could enter, save through the door. Her case 
was one of typhus fever, so I gave her an order 
for admission to the fever hospital. 

Before leaving I was asked to see another patient 
in the "back room," which I did. As it was pitch 
dark there, they lit a candle. Both these rooms 
were below the high-water mark of the river, 
which was but a few yards distant. The outer 
cellar was bad enough, but the back one was 
frightful. There was neither window nor fire- 
place in it. The walls, which were wholly below 
the level of the ground, had never been 
plastered ; down them trickled little streams of 
water, the floor was saturated with damp, the air 
foul, while on a kind of bed raised a few inches 
from the floor lay a girl ill with small-pox. It 
is not a matter of surprise that the lives of 
several of the doctors engaged in this practice 


I Begin to Practise 

were lost from diseases contracted in these 
wretched dens. 

On another occasion I was sent to visit a 
woman residing in a lane, the house having no 
basement. It was late on a winter day, and 
twilight. Arrived at the house I pushed the 
outer door in, and knocked on that of the first 
room I came to. Hearing no answer, I opened 
it and asked, " Is there anyone here ? " The 
room was pitch dark. I could see nothing, but 
a voice from the far corner said, " Yes." Asking 

was she Mrs. , " Yes," again came the reply. 

So I crept cautiously in the direction from 
whence the voice came. I could not see the 
patient, but, stooping down, felt the outline of a 
human form stretched on a little straw in the 
corner. There was no fire, no candle in the 
room, and as far as I could judge not a scrap of 
furniture. I asked her to raise her hand, and I 
felt the pulse ; it was that of fever. I told her 
to put out her tongue, and, touching it, felt it as 
dry as a coarse file. I knew that it must be a 
case of typhus alone, friendless, untended, with- 
out light, without fire, without food. Such was 
the daily experience of the physician. The 
only chance was to get such removed quickly 
to the " fever sheds," erected outside the city, 
for the hospitals in the city were filled to 

No wonder the mortality was great not 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

amongst the poor patients only, but also 
amongst the medical men who attended them ! 
for not a few contracted the deadly disease and 
laid down their lives in the discharge of their 

The institution to which I was attached was 
very badly managed, and its funds quite 
insufficient for the purposes for which it had 
been established. However, I continued to work 
in it for a year ; then, it being impossible for 
me to remain in Dublin holding a post to which 
no income was attached, I determined to become 
a candidate for an appointment in the country, 
which had become vacant through the death of 
the doctor from fever. The place was situated 
in a nice district some fifty miles from Dublin, a 
hunting country, with many gentry resident in 
the neighbourhood. Amongst them were relations 
of my mother ; so I thought I had a good 
chance of success, and, indeed, at first, so did my 
friends who very kindly brought me forward. 
But fate, or rather, as I now believe, the guiding 
hand of God, interposed. 

A lady, the daughter of a gentleman of 
influence amongst the electors, brought about 
my defeat, she believing, it was said, that the 
deceased doctor intended to marry her, though 
they were not engaged. She mourned for him 
somewhat loudly, and a distant relative of his, 
quite an old man, becoming a candidate, she 


I Begin to Practise 

induced her father to use his influence in his 
behalf, though previously he had been altogether 
in my favour. Then a certain number of the 
electors very fairly objected to my youth ; I 
lacked a few days of being twenty-one, and the 
lady's friends urged this very strongly against 
me. My friends, seeing that, if these two sections 
united, they would not only fail to secure my 
election, but would find themselves saddled with 
a very elderly and, as they believed, incompetent 
medical man, hesitated. I knew nothing of this 
until the day before the election, when I was 
told it on my arrival at the house of a friend, a 
warm supporter of mine. He explained to me 
the position of matters, and asked me would I 
consent to withdraw if, on the following day, my 
supporters saw that they could not secure my 
election. Of course, though greatly disappointed, 
I gave my consent, with the result that a third 
man, whom no one particularly wished for, 
obtained the post. 

Some twenty-five years after this, when I had 
become well known, a sister of the above lady 
wrote to me asking me to admit into the hospital 
of which I was the head a servant of hers. I 
recognised at once who the writer was, and in 
sending the order for admission reminded her 
that her father had prevented my election as 
their dispensary doctor in bygone days. To 
this she replied that his having done so was the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

best thing that could have happened to me, and 
so I believe it to have been. My failure to 
obtain that appointment influenced my whole 
future career. Had I obtained it, I most 
probably should have spent my whole life there, 
or at best have moved after a few years to some 
of the small towns in the neighbourhood, where 
I might perhaps have had a somewhat larger, 
but still unimportant sphere for practice. As 
it was, within a couple of months I was elected 
surgeon to the Geashill Dispensary district in 
King's County, which was situated in such a 
poor and uninviting district that no medical man 
would remain there a day longer than he could 
help ; so when a chance of moving to Dublin 
occurred I at once availed myself of it, a move 
which I am satisfied I would not have made had 
I been settled in a pleasant locality, for at that 
time I never thought of moving to Dublin or 
that I could ever succeed there. 

The village of Geashill in which I settled 
down on January 1, 1849, is situated midway 
between the towns of Portarlington and 
Tullamore, in an oasis in the midst of an 
immense tract of country covered with peat, and 
known as the Bog of Allen, and which occupies 
such a large space in the centre of Ireland. It 
was a very poor, but, for Ireland, a clean little 
place. The village was triangular in form. From 
the apex there ran on your left hand, as you 


I Begin to Practise 

entered coming from Portarlington, a long row 
of thatched, one-storied cottages. The first 
of these was the village shop, while at the other 
end stood a two-storied, slated house, in which 
the dispensary was held. In front of this row 
ran a stream of water, which would have been 
clear and bright but for the constant presence of 
numerous ducks and geese which were always 
paddling in it. The base of the little village was 
formed by a shorter row of rather better houses, 
some of them slated. On the third side stood 
the church, with graveyard attached, inclosed by 
a pretty high wall. The centre of the triangle 
thus formed was grassy, and was used as a fair 
green. Close to the church, and a little back 
from the road, stood the mansion of the lord of 
the manor, if I may use that expression. His 
lordship resided in England and it was not then 
inhabited, save by a caretaker. 

No medical man had ever resided there 
previously, the dispensary having been served by 
a doctor living six miles off. As there was no 
house for me to live in, I had to put up with 
lodgings in the only place in the village where 
such could be obtained. This was a long, low, 
one-storied, thatched cottage, already mentioned. 
There were in it just four rooms, all mud-floored. 
The kitchen, in the centre, was the family day 
room (they slept in a windowless loft over it, 
reached by a ladder, which I was never permitted 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

to ascend). Off the kitchen to the right was a 
small room in which were for sale a limited 
supply of groceries and unlimited supply of 
whiskey. Opening off the kitchen to the left 
was my sitting-room, with a hard, dry, earth floor, 
the centre covered with matting. It was a fair- 
sized room, about 15 or 16 ft. square. Off it 
was my bedroom which was only 7 ft by 15 ft. 
Its floor, also of earth, became, in wet weather, 
very damp and soft. To enter or leave my 
apartments I had to go through the kitchen, 
which, on market days, was thronged with 
customers. Sometimes a customer would open 
my door and look in, but I was always treated 
with great respect and courtesy, and I spent the 
winter months from January 1, 1849, very 
contentedly there, poor though the place was. I 
had plenty to do amongst the poor, and I had to 
read for my M.D. degree, for which I passed 
the examination early in the spring. Later 
on I moved into a house some little distance 
from the village. 

The country at this time was suffering, though 
with lessening severity, from the effects of the 
famine, which had lasted for more than two 
years ; actual starvation hardly occurred now, 
for large quantities of Indian meal had been 
imported, and could be obtained at a low price, or 
was distributed gratuitously to the very poor ; but 
there was great want of proper food everywhere. 


I Begin to Practise 

It was useless to plant potatoes, for the blight 
was sure to show itself, and was rarely attempted 
except by those who could afford to import seed, 
and to plant it in carefully selected ground, 
but even so the crop often would become 
diseased. The population had been greatly 
diminished by the enormous emigration, as 
well as by the terrible mortality, due to famine 
and fever, though food was seldom absolutely 
wanting. Everywhere, even in King's County 
only fifty miles from Dublin, it was so difficult 
to obtain food in sufficient quantities that I 
knew of families being reduced to the necessity 
of eating boiled nettles to eke out their scanty 

But it was more from the want of money 
than from the absence of food that farmers 
suffered ; there seemed to be absolutely no money 
in the country districts. Of course, this seriously 
affected medical men. For myself, my salary 
was but 80 a year, and as my district was large, 
and as I had two dispensaries to attend some 
miles apart, I had to keep a horse. Need I say I 
was nearly as poor as any of my neighbours ? No 
doubt I did get what private practice the 
district afforded, but as there were only about 
three or four families in it who could pay a 
doctor anything, my income from that source 
was very small. This was the state of things 
when, most unexpectedly, came the offer of a 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

post in Dublin, one which would produce an 
income about equal to my salary in the country. 
I accepted it, though with some hesitation, and 
moved up to Dublin in September, 1850, after 
a residence in Geashill of somewhat less than 
two years. 

I was sorry for some reasons to leave a place 
where the few gentry in the neighbourhood had 
shown me much kindness. With the poor I 
had been on the most friendly terms, and I 
think I had gained their confidence as a doctor 
to an extent I was hardly entitled to, for I had 
learned one thing from being thrown entirely on 
my own resources in an isolated district, at an 
immature age, and with so little experience ; this 
was that I was painfully deficient in the know- 
ledge of my profession. Had it not been for 
this, and for my desire to improve myself, I do 
not think 1 should have attempted to start in 
practice in the city. 



The Queen and Prince Albert visit Ireland in 1849 Great excitement 
Previous visits of Royalty Unforgettable scenes on this 
occasion The whole population turn out The crush in the 
crowded streets It rains Unpaved streets Train service in- 
adequate The Queen's distrust not overcome The great 
mistake of her reign The Irish peasantry Father Mathew 
I am nicely taken in And am reminded of another incident 
Antiseptics not in use Postponing operations The last of the 
" Hedge schoolmasters." 

THE visit of Queen Victoria and Prince 
Albert to Dublin, which took place in 
1849 while I was residing at Geashill, 
caused great excitement, for visits of the sovereign 
to Ireland have ever been few and far between. 
James II. came as a fugitive in 1688. 
George IV. arrived in 1821, but was moved 
thereto by his unpopularity in England. In fact, 
Victoria was the first monarch who for very 
many centuries spontaneously visited this portion 
of her dominions with the desire of indicating her 
goodwill and her interest in the country. More- 
over, she was young and held universally in high 
esteem. Consequently she was welcomed by all 
classes, and every one who could manage it went 
up to Dublin to see her, and I amongst them. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

I shall never forget the scene I witnessed at 
her entry, and again on her departure. The enthu- 
siasm of the crowd, composed as it was of all 
classes, was marvellous. Her public entry was 
made in the forenoon, and at night the whole 
city was illuminated, not with gas or electricity 
as would now be the case, but mainly by candles. 
A small sconce, holding a lighted candle, was 
fixed to. the frame of each pane of glass in the 
window, so as to be in a line with the centre of 
each pane (large plate-glass windows were 
not then known) ; and the effect of twelve or 
sixteen candles alight in a window was very 
pretty, while a whole street thus lighted up was 
really striking. 

On this occasion every house in every street 
was thus illuminated. If any had not been 
illuminated they would have been very quickly 
smashed. The public buildings, of course, were 
illuminated by gas devices placed outside. 

The whole population turned out at dark to 
view the illuminations. A party of us, young 
men and ladies, started in good time, and all went 
well till we got near the junction of Grafton Street 
and College Green, where the street becomes 
narrow. There the crowd was very great, while 
the roadway was blocked with rows of vehicles 
of all kinds four of five deep and the side 
paths packed. We had to stop, progress being 


Queen Victoria Visits Dublin 

Just then a crush took place suddenly, and, no 
doubt, designedly. Ladies screamed, and men 
pushed and struck one another. One young lady 
of my party, being pushed off the sidepath, 
clambered up on the step of an outside hack car 
packed with men. They were quite civil ; they 
could not make room for her, but held her up, 
supporting her on her very insecure foothold for 
some little time, she and they facing each other. 
The lady I had charge of was lifted clean off her 
feet in the crush, but was not hurt. Fortunately 
the crush soon relaxed and we managed to work 
our way back, for we had only penetrated a little 
way into the crowd. 

But those who had got further down, and all 
those in carriages, had subsequently a bad time 
of it, for before ten o'clock it began to rain very 
heavily, but the crowd could not, or would not 
disperse. Nor did a single vehicle which had 
got near the centre of the city and there were 
hundreds of them so circumstanced move for 
nearly two hours. There sat ladies many of them 
dressed up for the occasion, for the day had been 
very fine in open carriages or on outside cars in 
the pelting rain till drenched through, and not a 
few, when it was possible to move, had a long 
drive before them ere they reached their homes. 

I had to return to the country by an early train 
in the morning which should have started at 
seven o'clock. To reach the station I had to 

I.D. 145 K 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

cross the whole city. The rain had ceased, but 
the condition of the streets where the crowd had 
been dense was indescribable. At that date the 
streets were not paved, and the roadway was 
trampled into mud inches deep, and the flagged 
sidepaths seemed in a very little better state. 
Everywhere, but especially on the sidepaths, were 
to be seen bits of cigars, broken pipes, matches 
and matchboxes, pieces of paper, tattered rags of 
female attire many of these of muslin then much 
worn and other good materials all trampled into 
a confused mass of mud and dirt. It reminded 
one of what a battlefield would look like. 

I feared I would be late for my train, for I had 
great difficulty in getting a car, and only did so 
by agreeing to share it with others. But 1 need 
not have hurried ; the train was an hour late in 
starting, carriage after carriage being added to 
try and meet the demand for seats. I was so 
late in arriving at home that I was unable to 
accomplish my day's work ; but no one blamed 

I went up to Dublin again later on to see the 
Queen's departure. This proved hardly less ad- 
venturous than the illuminations. We drove 
to Kingstown in an open carriage to see Her 
Majesty embark. The going was all right, but 
the return in the dusk was a different matter. 
The road was crowded with vehicles of all 
descriptions, outside cars predominating, all bent 


Queen Victoria Visits Dublin 

on getting to the city as quickly as possible. 
They formed into lines, generally four abreast. 
But some drivers, who evidently were not 
abstainers, drove wildly, and sometimes even 
tried to race and get past those in front. No 
accident happened to our party, but I was greatly 
relieved when we neared our destination, for 
more than once a serious collision seemed 

Enthusiastic as was her reception, Queen 
Victoria's distrust of the Irish was not overcome. 
Many years elapsed ere she re-visited Ireland, 
and in my opinion her negligence in not doing so 
was the great mistake of her reign. 

During my two years' residence in King's County 
I gained an insight into the character of the Irish 
peasantry of the South. They differ greatly from 
those of the northern counties of Ireland. I 
think what struck me most was their cuteness 
indeed, I should say, cunning; and as my 
youthful appearance led them very justly to 
assume me to be fair game to practise it on, my 
opportunities of noticing it were far from being 

One instance occurred on my going to visit a 
poor woman who lived in an out-of-the-way 
place only to be reached on foot. Stopping to 
inquire the way, I was struck by the extreme 
civility of a farmer of whom I made the inquiry, 
and who, not content with pointing out the way, 

147 K 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

would walk with me to show me the way. At this 
time Father Mathew, the apostle of temperance, 
was holding meetings all over the country, 
and administering "the pledge " to numbers of 
both men and women, many of whom, specially 
the men, broke it ere long. My conductor 
brought our conversation round to this subject, 
and after a while asked my opinion as to the use 
of whiskey, porter, etc. I replied as best I could, 
and then he asked me if a glass of porter " would 
be of any use to him." I replied that I did not 
think it would do him any harm. Soon after 
this we parted, and I subsequently learned that 
he was one of those who, having taken the pledge, 
repented of having given the promise, and took 
the opportunity of meeting me to get an opinion 
which could be so twisted as to enable him to say 
" a doctor had ordered him to drink porter." 

Not long after this I was taken in nicely ; a 
pedlar, who carried a pack containing many 
miscellaneous articles, came to me one evening 
when it was nearly dark, and said he was 
suffering from severe pain in his stomach, and 
unless he got some relief he could not walk 
farther. I pitied him, brought him to the 
dispensary, and gave him a draught to relieve the 
pain, and then asked my landlady to allow him 
to sit by the kitchen fire till he got better. 

Half an hour elapsed, and then he came to my 
room door and, knocking, told me he felt nearly 


Queen Victoria Visits Dublin 

quite well, and thanked me profusely for my 
kindness, adding that he was very sorry he was 
so poor that he could not pay me anything, but 
that if only I would accept it, he would give me 
anything in his pack for half its value. As I had 
no money to spare, I thanked him, but said I did 
not want anything ; he however would display his 
wares, offering me one article after another, at 
what he declared a great loss to him. I tried to 
get rid of him, but could not. 

Finally, he produced a tablecloth, saying he 
heard I was soon to move into a house of my 
own, and that this would be so useful ; that it 
had cost him l, and that I should have it for 
ten shillings. I objected, but he would have me 
avail myself of his kindness, and he got the money 
out of me. When he was gone, my landlady 
told me that his illness was a pretence, as was his 
gratitude. Subsequently I found out that the 
article I had purchased was not worth half the 
money I had paid him for it. Truly I was a 
greenhorn ! 

Although the following incident did not occur 
till more than twenty years later, when I was 
master of the Rotunda Hospital, I mention it 
here : it illustrates a very different phase of Irish 
character, which amused me much at the time. 
A patient was sent up to the hospital from the 
extreme South-west of Ireland by the local medical 
man. She was barely eighteen years of age, and 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

had a large tumour, probably similar to that of 
which Queen Mary died, which event brought 
Elizabeth to the throne of England. 

The only hope of saving this girl's life lay in 
the performance of a serious operation, but at 
that date the mortality after these operations was 
so great for antiseptics were not yet used or 
understood that I was in the habit of postponing 
the performance of such for as long as possible. 
This girl was so young, and her general health so 
good, that I hesitated to operate, and wrote to her 
father saying I advised him to take her home for 
six months, at the expiration of which time I 
would readmit the patient. I explained that, 
though the operation must be performed, I deemed 
it wiser to delay it. 

In a few days I received a reply from him. It 
was a most amusing letter and very well written. 
First he thanked me for my kindness to his 
daughter, and for saying I would readmit her, but 
preferred, as an operation must be performed, 
that it should be done at once, especially as he was 
too poor to pay the fare for her long journey 
home and back again. He concluded his letter 
thus : " Now, sir, I sent up my dear daughter 
relying on your great skill and in God's mercy. 
Perform the operation ; and whether she lives or 
dies, I shall be equally satisfied ! " 

I felt sure that this statement was not intended 
to convey to me, that he did not care whether 


Queen Victoria Visits Dublin 

his child lived or died, and subsequently I learned 
that it was quite otherwise, and that he was much 
attached to her, the more so as the girl was his 
only child by his first wife who had died soon 
after her birth, and further that her step-mother, 
who had several children of her own, was far from 
kind to her. But the letter, without the know- 
ledge of these facts, was certainly startling. I 
learned, too, that the man was a schoolmaster and 
very poorly paid. 

I acted in accordance with his wishes, and had 
the pleasure of sending the girl home in a few 
weeks perfectly well. The father, poor as he was, 
sent me up a sack of potatoes as a token of his 
gratitude, and even paid the carriage ! 

A few months before I left the country I came 
across one of the last of the race of men who for 
a long time were well nigh the only persons who 
imparted any education to the children of the 
Irish peasant. I allude to the "hedge school- 
master," a term I was quite familiar with in my 
childhood ; for though my father had established 
a school in his parish before I was born, com- 
paratively few availed themselves of it. But I 
have no recollection of having seen one of these 
hedge schoolmasters actually teaching till one 
day, as I was riding home, I saw some five or six 
small boys sitting round an old man, under a tall 
hedge by the roadside, not a mile from my 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

I stopped and spoke to him ; he seemed ill, and 
I discovered that he was a great sufferer, so I told 
him to come to the dispensary. He did so, and 
I was the means of giving him some temporary 
relief for which he was most grateful. 

He told me what indeed I knew the condition 
of the men of his class ; that he rarely received 
any money ; that he had spent his life wandering 
from place to place, teaching when he had the 
chance the children of the poor the rudiments of 
learning. This he did in barns, sheds, or by 
the roadside, receiving in return such scanty food 
as they had to give, seldom sleeping in a dwelling- 
house, but in some dilapidated barn or uncleanly 
shed. In bygone years he had fared better, but 
now, with schools springing up everywhere, he 
was no longer wanted. 

Poor old man ! he sooned passed out of my 
sight. He went his way, I fear, to die a painful 
death, uncared for, most likely by the wayside, 
for enter the doors of a poor-house he would 



Vacant houses in Dublin owing to the famine I fall overboard and 
am in great peril But am hauled on to the wharf A cautious 
friend Other accidents I take a house in Upper Mount Street 
Religion, politics and candidates I canvass for post of hospital 
physician, but am defeated Appointed to the Rotunda Hospital. 

ARRIVED in Dublin I had no difficulty in 
finding a suitable house, for as a result of 
the famine many were vacant in every 
street. But before I took possession of the one 
selected I met with an accident that might easily 
have terminated my career, for I fell overboard 
the mail steamer on a pitch-dark night as she 
got under way in Kingstown Harbour. 

It came about thus. A lady, a relative of mine, 
and her husband were to cross to Liverpool that 
night. They had a lot of luggage, and, calling at 
the house just as they were starting, they asked 
me to go down to Kingstown and help to get 
their luggage on board, it having at that time 
to be carried by porters from the station to the 
ship a pretty long walk. I consented, and looked 
after the luggage while they hurried on board to 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

try and get berths, which, as the voyage occupied 
over twelve hours, was essential. 

There were many passengers, and, a long delay 
occurring, getting all the luggage on board, the 
captain got very impatient. I ran below to tell 
my friend that all was right, to find that gentle- 
man in the middle of a crowd all clamouring for 
berths which the unfortunate clerk seemed 
unable to supply. At last I reached him, and he 
gave me half-a-crown to pay the porter, and up 
I rushed and made straight for the gangway. I 
was just fairly on it, when the ship moved and 
down I went gangway, stage, and all. It, being 
iron-bound and furnished with iron handrails on 
either side, sank like lead. Fortunately I escaped 
being entangled ; still more fortunate was it 
that I fell behind the paddle-wheels, for the 
captain had lost his temper and would not even 
delay to allow the clerk to land or the stage to be 
got on shore. 

There was a shout, " Man overboard ! " The 
ship stopped, and all was confusion. I was a good 
swimmer, but the day had been very cold, and I 
wore a heavy topcoat, had on cloth gloves, 
and, as I had been riding that afternoon, wore 
long boots, which, filling with water, weighted me 
down. It was pitch dark. I turned towards the 
quay which stood fifteen feet perpendicularly 
above me, and saw nothing to lay hold of. I 
then turned towards the ship, and called for a 


First Years Professional Life in Dublin 

rope. They shouted that there was one out from 
the ship. I said that I could not see it. Then a 
flambeau was held over her side. I saw the 
rope and was able to reach it ; having the halt- 
crown in my hand, I tried to put it into my 
mouth, but the salt water got in also, so the 
half-crown had to be let go ! 

A minute or two elapsed it seemed to me 
hours when a lifebuoy was flung from the 
shore ; but it fell so far from me that I dare not 
let go the rope, and I shouted that I could not 
swim so far. Another was thrown ; it fell close 
to me and I reached it. It was shaped like a 
dumb-bell, with a stout rope attached to its 
centre. So by seizing the rope I was able to 
get first one and then the other leg over it, and 
was hoisted on to the pier, sticking out my 
feet to save myself from being torn or bruised by 
the rough stones of which the wall was built. 
Great cheering welcomed me as I scrambled on 
to dry land, and the porters showed me great 
kindness, bringing me to their hut close by, in 
which there was a good fire, fortunately, as I was 
very cold. 

Then the question arose as to how I should 
get home in my dripping state. My Mend's 
coachman was on the pier, he having brought 
down horses which his master was taking to 
England horses were carried on the mail boats 
in those days. He, of course, came to my 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

assistance, and I sent him to the house of an old 
gentleman who lived near, asking him to lend me 
dry clothes which would be returned next day. 

The old gentleman feared he was being 
imposed upon, especially as he did not know 
that I had come to Dublin. However, he sent 
the clothes by his own servant, with directions 
that he was not to part with them unless sure 
of my identity. That was easily settled, but the 
clothes well, they did not exactly fit me ! I 
was not tall, but the old man was much shorter, 
and what he wanted in height was amply 
compensated for in breadth. The band of his 
trousers went about twice round one. The 
figure I must have cut when clad in his rather 
ancient suit may be imagined ; however, it was 
dark and no one minded me much. I was none 
the worse for the ducking, but I had a narrow 
escape of being drowned. 

I was the third person to whom a very 
similar accident had happened much about this 
time ; one was a gentleman I knew something of. 
He was going on board a steamer which was 
about to sail from the North Wall Quay, 
Dublin ; his foot slipped, and he fell into the 
river and was drowned. The other was a well- 
known man ; he fell into the sea at Holyhead 
while in the act of boarding a steamer ; he, too, 
was drowned. I alone of the three escaped. I, 
of course, was young ; they were elderly. I 


First Years Professional Life in Dublin 

know not whether they could swim or not. To 
God's mercy I owe the life then spared. 

I hardly know what my ideas as to my future 
were when a small house in Upper Mount Street 
received me as tenant in October, 1850. I was 
very far from being sanguine of succeeding in 
Dublin, and knew that most likely I should 
have to seek an opening in some smaller sphere, 
like many others I knew of. In the meantime 
I hoped to gain experience and a better know- 
ledge of my profession. Looking back now 
over my life, now prolonged beyond four-score 
years, I see clearly how I was guided by God's 
providence in every step, thwarting me in 
obtaining objects I desired, and opening my way 
in a direction which, though at the time quite 
other than I wished, led in the end to professional 
success such as I had never deemed possible. 

I was, of course, anxious to be attached to some 
hospital where I would have the opportunity 
of gaining experience in the treatment of the 
sick ; so not long after coming up to town, 
learning that the guardians of the South Dublin 
Union had decided, in consequence of the vast 
number of poor seeking admission to their 
hospital, to appoint an additional assistant 
physician, I became a candidate, and as I was 
fortunate enough to obtain the support of a 
gentleman who devoted much of his time to the 
affairs of the union, I was hopeful of success. 


In this instance, as, indeed, in all others in 
Ireland, religion and politics played an important 
part in the election. There were some twenty 
or more candidates, and there were consequently 
several rounds of voting, those candidates who 
obtained the fewest votes being on each occasion 
thrown out, till their number was reduced to 
three, namely, a Roman Catholic gentleman, a 
Nonconformist, and myself. Hitherto, I had 
on each occasion headed the list, and did so on 
the semi-final round, when the Roman Catholic, 
having obtained the fewest votes, was thrown 
out ; and I, turning to him asked, " Who will 
your friends now vote for ? " he replied, " Against 
you, as you are the Conservative candidate," 
which, in truth, I was not, the result being that I 
was defeated by just one vote. The result of 
that election again influenced my whole career. 
I had always wished to be a physician, and to be 
attached as such to a general hospital. Instead, 
I was destined to take up a special department 
of the profession of medicine. 

During my canvass I had called on one of 
my former teachers, Dr. Charles Johnston, who 
had been master of the Rotunda Hospital when 
I was a pupil there, and asked him to assist 
me. He received me very kindly, but replied 
that any interest he possessed he had promised 
to another ; but he immediately added, " I will 
help you in another direction. I can obtain 


First Years Professional Life in Dublin 

for you the appointment of assistant to the 
master of the Rotunda Hospital which will be 
vacant in a few months, and I advise you to 
accept it." He proceeded to teU me that it had 
been promised to him for his son, but as the 
latter had decided to give up medicine and 
enter the Church, he could have the nomination 
transferred to me. 

Being at the time hopeful that I should be 
successful at the approaching election, I said I 
would like to have a little time to consider the 
matter ; but on my being defeated, at once 
called on him, and told him I would gladly 
accept his kind offer. In doing so I was 
influenced solely by the feeling that I would 
thus have the opportunity of improving my 
professional knowledge ; but, in point of fact it 
led, though not till twenty years elapsed, to my 
being elected master of the Rotunda Hospital, 
a position worthy of being the object of any 
man's ambition, and one which at the time I am 
speaking of, it never entered into my head I 
could ever attain. 



Anxious years Marriage and a family, but only a small income 
Tempted to go to England My wife opposed Join the staff of 
the Adelaide Hospital I make progress and publish my lectures 
to students Rapid success A great compliment Master of the 
Rotunda Hospital A magnificent monument to Dr. Mosse 
What one man can do Inception and growth of the hospital 
Lotteries to raise funds Building a chapel as a source of income I 
Other strange methods I find the hospital deficient in modern 
and sanitary conveniences, and commence reforms. 

THE years that followed were full of anxiety. 
I married young, children came, but my 
income remained miserably small. I am 
convinced that not one of my contemporaries had 
such a struggle or met so many disappointments 
as I did. So slow was my progress in gaining 
patients that, after being in Dublin seven or eight 
years, I, on two occasions, entered into negotia- 
tions, with the view of joining as partner, gentle- 
men in practice in England. On the second 
occasion I had nearly closed with the offer made 
me, when my wife begged me to wait for one 
year more before deciding to move, pointing out 
that we were free from debt, and asking me to 
trust God's guidance. I agreed to wait, and ere 
the year expired things looked brighter. 


Slow Progress in Dublin 

The monotony of my professional life, consisting 
as it did for many years in a struggle to make 
the two ends meet, was unexpectedly broken in 
1868 by my being invited to join the staff of the 
Adelaide Hospital, a small ward for the reception 
of patients suffering from those diseases, treatment 
of which I had made a special study, being 
allotted to me. I had no idea that such an 
appointment was contemplated. I, of course, 
jumped at the offer, which, as it proved, had a 
marked effect on my future. 

From the first my beds were filled, and I had 
not infrequently to trespass on the kindness of 
my colleagues, who would lend me a bed for 
some interesting case. Although it never was 
directly stated to me, I believe the invitation to 
join the staff was due to the kindness of the two 
physicians to the hospital, Dr. James Little and 
Dr. Henry Head, to whom I know I owe much 

I soon had a large extern clinic, and at once 
commenced giving clinical lectures, which were 
much appreciated by the class. They were 
attended by pupils from other hospitals also. 
After a time some of the class asked me to 
publish these, which, though I had only very 
rough notes to guide me, I did. They appeared 
in the Medical Press, at that time edited by the 
late Dr. Arthur Jacob, and I had an edition of 
500 copies reprinted from this, every one of 

I.D. 161 L 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

which, to my great surprise, were sold in a few 
months. A second and third enlarged editions 
followed, the latter being reprinted in America 
and also translated into French. Altogether 
there were seven large editions published in Great 
Britain. Then, though pressed by the publishers 
to issue another, I decided not to do so, for so 
greatly had our knowledge of the causation of 
these diseases advanced, and so improved had 
our methods of treatment become, that it would 
have been necessary to rewrite a great part of the 
work, a task for which I had neither the time nor 

I was much struck by an incident which 
occurred in connection with the sale of the first 
copies. The publisher was a medical bookseller 
in Dublin whom I knew very well, and the book- 
binder being dilatory I called on him, with the 
result that he promised to send a batch of the 
volumes to the publisher without further delay. 
So I called at the shop to find out if he had kept 
his promise. The publisher told me that he had, 
adding, " And 1 have sold a copy already." This 
was at about twelve o'clock in the day. Of course 
I asked who it was he had sold it to, but he 
refused to tell me, adding, " The books were 
delivered late yesterday afternoon, and they were 
being placed on the counter just before we closed, 
when a medical man you know very well came. 
While he was being served he asked what 


Slow Progress in Dublin 

books they were. I told him it was a book you 
were publishing, and he then said, ' I would not 
trust one word that man wrote,' taking up as he 
spoke one of the volumes, w r hich he looked over 
for a few minutes, then laying it down said, ' I 
will not buy the book, but if you will lend it me 
I would like to look it over, and I promise you to 
bring it back safe to-morrow morning.' I lent it 
him, and this morning he came in saying he would 
keep the book, and paid for it." I consider that 
the greatest compliment I was ever paid, for 
though I was never told his name, I am sure 
I know who it was a man with whom, though 
at one time my colleague, I never got on friendly 

My connection with the Adelaide Hospital 
ceased on my being elected master of the 
Rotunda Hospital in November, 1878. Then 
followed the busiest years of my life. I had already 
a large consulting practice, and to this was now 
added the charge of a great hospital. 

The position of master of the Rotunda Hos- 
pital is a peculiar one. It can be held for seven 
years only, and he must reside in the hospital, a 
handsome suite of apartments being allotted to him. 
He has no colleague, and is consequently person- 
ally responsible for every patient in it. He has, 
however, two assistants, who are nominated by 
him, but their appointment must be confirmed by 
the governors. The governors can reject the 

163 L 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

person nominated by the master, but they cannot 
elect an assistant unless he be nominated by him. 
The whole responsibility, therefore, as to the 
assistant's fitness rests on the master. 

Nor do his duties end in merely treating the 
patients committed to his care. He is a governor, 
and, in fact, very much in the position of manag- 
ing director of a large establishment. The 
secretary will come to him for advice or 
instructions, as will also the matron at least, it 
was so in my time, though I should hope that 
the reorganisation which was initiated by me and 
which was carried out under my successors will 
have relieved him of much that devolved on 
me. It was only by the most methodical arrange- 
ment of my time that I was able to get through 
my daily work. 

I had, besides, a good deal of literary work on 
hand, to accomplish which I devoted three hours, 
8 to 11 p.m., regularly. I never sat up after the 
latter hour. I commenced my morning visit to 
the wards at 9 a.m. punctually. The work, too, 
became heavier, in consequence of the governors, 
on my suggestion, converting a large detached 
wing of the institution into an auxiliary hospital 
for the treatment of chronic affections, many of 
the patients admitted into it needing the perform- 
ance of capital operations which often occupied 
much time. This department had not existed 


Slow Progress in Dublin 

The Rotunda Hospital is a magnificent monu- 
ment of the philanthropy of one man, and of his 
wonderful energy and perseverance in overcoming 
difficulties which would appear insuperable to 
most men. But Dr. Mosse was by himself. 
While still a young man his compassion was 
excited, by witnessing the suffering and the 
neglected conditions of the poor during child- 
birth. At his own cost he took a house in South 
Georges Street, Dublin, then known as Georges 
Lane. The house was small and soon proved 
altogether insufficient for the purpose intended, 
which was the reception of women during their 
confinements, so, with the aid of some subscrip- 
tions he succeeded in obtaining, he took the 
adjoining one also; but this addition proved 
wholly inadequate to meet the demand for 
admission, and he boldly resolved to build a 
lying-in hospital, which would not only be a 
charitable institution of the most useful character, 
but also an ornament to the city. 

He commenced operations by acquiring the site 
on which the hospital and public rooms now 
stand. From the shape of the principal public 
room the hospital acquired the name of 
"Rotunda," by which it is so widely known. 
The ground behind, which was subsequently laid 
out as a pleasure ground, forms the Rotunda 
Gardens. Then, though he had not 500 in the 
world, he commenced building a hospital, the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

architect's estimated cost of which was no less than 
20,000 ! 

At that date, 1745, many of the Irish nobility 
had houses in Dublin, where they resided some 
months during each year, as did also many of the 
country gentry. Dr. Mosse succeeded in gaining 
the patronage of these, and, what was of even 
more importance, handsome donations of money. 
The Lord Lieutenant favoured him, and the 
foundation stone was laid with great ceremony. 

So far he had succeeded marvellously, but his 
difficulties were only beginning, and though sub- 
scriptions came in, the expenditure was so heavy 
that his funds were soon exhausted. He pledged 
his credit to its utmost limits, but even this 
money so raised was soon gone. Then he 
appealed to the Irish parliament, pointing out 
that the institution was truly a national one. A 
grant of money was made, and after it was opened 
3,000 was for many years voted towards its 

But the doctor's difficulties were far from being 
surmounted. He had recourse to lotteries (then 
legal), from which he derived considerable sums ; 
but he was always struggling with debt, for 
which he was frequently threatened with arrest 
indeed I believe on at least one occasion he 
actually was arrested. But he never faltered in 
his purpose. It was ten years ere the hospital 
was completed. In 1756 it was incorporated by 


Slow Progress in Dublin 

Royal Charter, the Lord Lieutenant being 
named president, and Dr. Mosse, as was right, 
nominated the first master. He was to hold 
office for life. 

But his labours did not end with the completion 
of the hospital ; he wanted to have it, in at least 
a great degree, independent of donations and 
subscriptions. His first step was to have a 
chapel opened in the building, which he hoped 
to fill with a wealthy congregation. It exists 
still, though I regret to say it has ceased to bring 
an income to the charity. It is really handsome. 
The pews are of mahogany, as are the pillars 
that support the gallery, in which is an organ, 
said to have been taken from a ship forming part 
of the Spanish Armada, which was wrecked on 
the coast of Ireland. The ceiling is beautiful, 
decorated with stucco work done by an Italian 
Dr. Mosse had discovered and brought over to 

The same artist also decorated the houses of 
many of the nobility and gentry who lived in 
the neighbourhood of the hospital, at that time 
the fashionable end of the city. These houses 
are now either public offices or have degenerated 
into tenement dwellings. 

The chapel was at first a great success, every 
pew being rented by people of wealth and 
position, and it was the fashion to go there. All 
that has changed long since, but my mother, who 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

was at school in a street adjacent to the hospital 
at the time of the union, often told me when I 
was a child of the fetes and promenades which 
were held in the Rotunda Gardens when she was 
a girl, little dreaming that her child was to live 
to be the head of the institution. 

Dr. Mosse then decided to set about building 
public rooms on the ground adjoining the 
hospital, believing that these, a need for which 
existed in the city, would produce an income for 
its support. The "Rotunda," or "Round Room," 
as it is generally called, paid well from the first, 
it being in demand for balls, concerts, public 
meetings, etc., the other rooms also being much 
used. But fashion moved to the south side of 
the city, where other rooms have been built, so 
the income derived is now but small. More- 
over, money to complete the buildings failing, 
debentures chargeable on them, and which 
still exist, were issued, the interest thereon 
being paid by the governors. The upkeep, too, 
is an expensive item. 

When I was elected master, the hospital had 
been in existence for a hundred years, but from 
causes into which it is needless to enter it had 
changed but little in its internal arrangements 
and management during that time. The other 
Dublin hospitals had been vastly improved and 
modernised, but when I went back to the 
Rotunda as master, twenty years after I had 


Slow Progress in Dublin 

left it as assistant, to my surprise I found little, 
indeed scarcely anything, changed in the interval. 
An ample supply of water at high pressure 
had been brought into the city, and introduced 
into the hospital, but not into the wards. There 
was no means of giving a patient a bath, nor was 
there proper provision made for the attendants 
even to wash their hands. Further, I found that 
extensive repairs were needed, especially to the 
public rooms, and many alterations, some of 
them structural, urgently required to improve 
the sanitary conditions. Worst of all, I found 
that there was no money available, but that, on 
the contrary, there was an overdraft due to the 
the bank amounting to nearly 1,000. Indeed, 
debt was steadily increasing, for the income 
of the institution did not suffice to meet the 
expenditure. The governors did not seem to 
know anything about these matters. 




A useful sermon Mr. Samuel Adair I send out begging letters and 
a handbill Many improvements effected Opposition Four 
ex-master governors Timid counsels A diplomatic move that 
overcomes opposition Sir William J. Smyly finishes the work 
of reform begun by me All Dublin hospitals also benefit The 
corporation votes an annual sum The delicate question of the 
nurses Object to uniform Objectionable mode of appointing 
Poorly paid and ignorant Uniform settled by accidental occur* 
rence The Lord Lieutenant visits the hospital The auxiliary 
hospital Students from abroad. 

A WEEK or two after my election, a sermon 
was to be preached in the chapel in aid of 
the funds of the hospital ; and I spoke to 
the clergyman, asking him to say that its needs 
were so great and its financial position so bad, 
that not less than 3,000 were required, and that 
immediately. Among those who chanced to be 
present on that occasion was the late Mr. 
Samuel Adair, a well-known and much respected 

After the conclusion of the service Mr. Adair 
came to me and put several questions relative to 
these matters, which I was able to answer to 
his satisfaction. He immediately gave us a 


Improving the Rotunda Hospital 

handsome donation, agreed to become a governor, 
and from that day on took an active part in the 
management of the hospital. Indeed, it was 
in a great degree owing to his support that 
I was able to have much that was needful 
accomplished during my seven years' tenure of 

The first thing we did was to get an architect's 
report as to needful repairs and alterations. A 
small committee was appointed to consider this 
and to devise the means of raising funds. 

I need hardly say that with respect to the 
latter the work devolved entirely on myself. I 
engaged a clerk temporarily, who copied letters 
dictated by me, which I signed by the dozen. 
The responses to these were wonderfully satis- 
factory. In these letters was usually enclosed a 
handbill, of which a copy is printed (p. 172). I 
give it as affording a brief outline of the history 
of the hospital and of the claims it then, as now, 
has on the public. 

By means of appeals to the public, and lastly, 
by a bazaar, held in the Round Room, a consider- 
able sum of money was raised, and many improve- 
ments were effected, the most difficult task 
being to try and improve the basement story, 
which was, and, I fear, must ever remain, very 
dark, and was at that time also ill-ventilated ; 
but we succeeded in letting in a good deal of 
light and air. All those matters were willingly 





The Treatment of Diseases Peculiar to Women. 


MORE than a hundred years ago, Dr. Bartholomew Mosse conceived the idea of 
rearing an Hospital which would be at once a refuge for poor suffering women, 
and a great School of Obstetric Medicine. With untiring energy he carried 
out his great plan ; he died in poverty, but his memory has ever been revered 
as one of the greatest benefactors of suffering humanity. 

Nor was he content with erecting a magnificent hospital ; he sought also 
to create an income for its future support ; but his efforts in this respect only 
serve as a proof of the fallacy of man's foresight. His provision for the future 
maintenance of the hospital was to be derived mainly from four sources 
1st. A tax imposed by Act of Parliament on " public sedan chairs." 
2nd. A Government grant of 3,000 a year. 

3rd. The profits derived from letting the Rotunda and adjoining ground. 
4th. A tax imposed on the inhabitants of the square, in consideration of 
which the Governors were bound to light it. 

As "public sedan chairs" are things of the past, the tax is no longer a 
source of income ; but, unfortunately, a sum of 11,000 was borrowed, charge- 
able on this tax, and the interest, amounting to 440 a year, has still to be 
paid by the hospital. 

Next, Government has gradually reduced the Grant to 700, and this is 
continued solely on the ground of the great national benefit conferred by the 
hospital as an educational establishment. 

Third. The profits derived from the public rooms and gardens, at one 
time very large, have of late fallen off, specially since the opening of the 
Exhibition Palace. 

Fourth. The square tax, too, has ceased to produce a revenue. The point 
having been raised that the lighting should be by oil lamps, not by gas 1 the 
question is still sub judice ; so we can only say that for the present the 
charity loses this source of income. 

Thus this excellent charity, this renowned school of medicine, which for 
more than a hundred years has attracted numbers of pupils, Male and Female, 
from all parts of the world, has gradually had its sources of income lessened. 
The result is that the institution is this day in debt to an extent not much 
under 1,000. Nor is this all. Time has told on its fabric ; it needs extensive 
repairs, especially the wing in which are situated the wards devoted to the 
treatment of the diseases peculiar to women. In fact 3,000 must be promptly 
expended in repairs and improvements, or the building will fall to decay. 

Can any one read this outline of the history of this renowned hospital 
without feeling a wish to aid it? Its claims are of no common nature. They 
are those of a charity and of a school of obstetric medicine of which the 
country is justly proud. As a charity it annually relieves thousands of the 
suffering poor, while to the wealthy classes its existence is no less valuable, 
since from the experience obtained within its walls the wives and daughters of 
the rich derive the greatest benefit. 

This Hospital affords shelter and relief on an average to 2,000 poor women 
annually, excluding those admitted into the chronic wards ; a large number of 
women are attended at their own homes, while over 3,000 patients are treated 
during the year in the Dispensary which is attached to the Hospital. 

You are earnestly entreated to contribute to the Fund now being raised, 
in order to prevent such a National loss and National disgrace, as the decay of 
this great Institution would be. 

Annual Subscriptions are also earnestly solicited. 

Donations and Subscriptions will be received by LOMBE ATTHILI., M.D., 
Master of the Hospital ; by Mr. MULLEN, Secretary, Rotunda Hospital ; or by 
any of the Governors. 

Improving the Rotunda Hospital 

sanctioned by the governors. But when it came 
to providing suitable premises for the treatment 
of extern patients, of whom a large number daily 
presented themselves, and the organising the 
extern maternity, opposition came. I regret to 
say that it was led by the medical members of 
the board. 

The master for the time being is an ex officio 
governor, but ceases to be so at the expiration of 
his term of office, but is usually re-elected a 
governor subsequently. There were four ex- 
master governors at the date of my election. 
One, Dr. Evory Kennedy, never attended the 
meetings of the board. I had the misfortune to 
have failed to gain at my election the support of 
any one of the others, but we were nevertheless 
very good friends, and from Dr. Alfred 
McClintock I received the heartiest support in 
the carrying out of the various improvements I 
have referred to ; but when it was proposed to 
erect a small building for the use of extern 
patients, being afraid of increasing the debt, he 
opposed it on the grounds of want of funds. 
Another of the ex-masters opposed it, and also 
the extension of the extern maternity depart- 
ment, as unnecessary, and as calculated to induce 
patients to remain at their homes for their 
confinements instead of seeking admission into 
the hospital. The result has proved to 
have had quite the opposite effect, for as the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

numbers attended in their own homes increased, 
more patients sought admission to the lying-in 

The board met one morning to consider the 
architect's report. It was divided into two parts. 
The first part related to many matters I have 
spoken of and to alterations in what was known 
as the "auxiliary hospital," and which I urged 
the board to convert into one for the treatment 
of the diseases peculiar to women, instead of 
using the wards in it for lying-in patients. All 
these matters were approved, and the work 
ordered to be proceeded with. The second part 
related to a new building of very moderate 
dimensions, mainly for dispensary work, which 
has long given place to the fine hospital erected 
subsequently, mainly, indeed nearly altogether, 
through the exertions of Dr. (now Sir William) 
Smyly, during his mastership. 

Dr. McClintock, who was present at the 
meeting of the board, approved of the first part 
of the report, but when the second part was 
reached he pushed back his chair, and, rising, 
moved the adjournment of the meeting. I 
begged the governors to wait and consider the 
rest of the report, and as there was further 
opposition, I asked them at least to walk round 
and see the apartment in which these patients 
were being treated. This they agreed to do. 

It happened to be a very cold, raw morning in 

Improving the Rotunda Hospital 

February. Now the only place where these 
extern patients could be seen was in a small 
room off the porter's lodge, about 10 ft. by 8 ft. 
in size. There was no fireplace, and the assistant 
on duty, in order to have some warmth for him- 
self and the poor patients, used to have a 
small petroleum stove burning, which always 
smoked horridly. Then there was no waiting 
room for the patients, and they had to stand 
in a narrow, dark passage leading to the little 

The governors, some eight or nine in number, 
followed me into this dark passage, and found 
themselves wedged in amongst some twenty 
poor, and certainly not very cleanly, women, who 
were watching for the door to open and admit 
the one nearest. With some difficulty I got 
through the crowd, opened the door, and intro- 
duced the governor nearest to me, who happened 
to be the late Mr. C. Uniacke Townshend. He 
stepped in and saw the then assistant sitting 
enveloped in an overcoat near the petroleum 
stove, the room being filled with the pungent 
fumes therefrom. Mr. Townshend stepped back 
more quickly than he had entered, saying, " That's 
enough; let us go back to the board-room." I 
believe one or two more governors looked in, 
withdrawing speedily. This bringing of the 
governors to see the place was quite unpre- 
meditated, but it answered the purpose admir- 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

ably. The architect's plans were approved, Dr. 
McClintock contenting himself by merely having 
a resolution passed that the new work was not to 
be undertaken till the money for the purpose 
was provided. The board then adjourned for a 
month. Before that time elapsed we had 
succeeded in collecting some more money not 
a sufficient sum to meet the intended outlay, but 
I was determined that the new building should 
be put in hand at once. So, to meet the difficulty 
caused by the resolution referred to, I got the 
bank to agree to advance if needed any sum up 
to 1,000 to the governors on my sole guarantee, 
the governors neither personally nor collectively 
to be responsible for such advances. I laid a 
letter from the bank to this effect before the 
board, and they then at once ordered the work 
to be put in hand. As a matter of fact, the 
whole sum needed was raised by one means or 
another, without the bank being called on to 
make any advance. And further, before my 
term as master of the hospital expired, not only 
had the previously existing debt been wiped out, 
but, moreover, the governors had a considerable 
credit balance in bank. It remained for Sir 
William J. Smyly to carry much further what I 
very imperfectly began, and to make the Rotunda 
by far the most complete and perfect hospital for 
women in the kingdom. Without doubt, second 
only to the founder, Dr. Bartholomew Mosse, 


Improving the Rotunda Hospital 

the public and the profession alike owe to him a 
great debt of gratitude. 

The efforts made by the governors to improve 
the hospital benefited all the Dublin hospitals, 
for, having appealed to the corporation for a 
grant of money, that body appointed a committee 
to meet a deputation from the board. They 
gave us a kindly reception and acceded to our 
application. Other hospitals, on hearing of our 
success, also applied for aid, and since that date 
the corporation has voted a sum of, I think, 2,000 
annually, which is divided amongst the various 
city hospitals. Further, the paving of the streets 
having commenced about this time, I appealed 
to the paving committee, requesting them to 
pave with wood the part of the street in front 
and on the west side of the hospital, pointing out 
the serious harm the rattle of vehicles over the 
stone setts, specially in the early morning, would 
have on patients, many of whom must always be 
seriously ill. They agreed, though not to the 
needful extent, to my request, and in like 
manner paved with wood those parts of streets 
which ran in front of other hospitals. I am 
pleased to think that I was thus the means of 
benefiting many sufferers. But apart from 
alterations and improvements in the structure, 
the internal arrangements needed to be 
remodelled, and that was a far more difficult 
thing to effect. 

t.D. 177 M 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

There was not a trained nurse in the hospital 
with the exception of the head nurse, and she, 
though an excellent woman, was one of the 
regular old school, and intensely conservative. 
The question of how to effect what was necessary, 
namely, a complete change in the nursing staff, 
perplexed me greatly. I could not think of 
discharging a number of women who had filled 
the post of ward nurses for a considerable time, 
and who for the most part were well conducted, 
if illiterate. Indeed, one or two had become 
careful and experienced nurses. 

The mode of appointing nurses, too, was most 
objectionable, while their pay was shamefully 
small. To begin with the matron she was a 
nice old lady, a widow who had formerly been 
in a good social position she wished to do right, 
but had no previous training of any kind, and not 
the most remote idea of what the duties of the 
matron of a hospital should be ; in fact, she was 
a housekeeper, not a matron. When a vacancy 
occurred for a ward nurse she was in the habit of 
looking out for a respectable middle-aged woman, 
generally an old servant, who was installed in 
her ward without as much as one day's previous 
training, and she got none in the hospital, for the 
matron knew no more than herself. The head 
nurse's duties were virtually wholly confined to 
the supervision of the women who were admitted 
to be trained as monthly nurses and midwives. 


Improving the Rotunda Hospital 

It was easy to say, " Put an end to that system," 
but what to do with the existing staff was the 
difficulty. The wage paid to the nurses was but 
10 a year each. That, I greatly fear, was 
supplemented by money extracted from the 
patients, though this was strictly forbidden. 
One, indeed, and she the senior of the whole staff, 
I felt sure, did this habitually, but I could not 
prove it. Further, their laundry was not provided 
for, so they washed their underclothes in their 
wards ; as to their dresses, they were never washed. 
They provided their own clothes and all wore 
black dresses always. 

In this dilemma I decided in the first place to 
ask the board to raise the wages of all the nurses ; 
to allow me to divide them into three classes, the 
first class to have 20, the two other propor- 
tionally less. The board acceded to my recom- 
mendation, and I selected two, not the longest in 
the hospital, but the most intelligent and most 
trustworthy of the twelve ward nurses, for the 
first class. It turned out as I expected ; several 
of the others finding themselves passed over were 
dissatisfied, even though their wages had been 
raised, especially the senior one already alluded 
to. She afterwards intimated that if the board 
would give her a gratuity she would resign. This 
was done, and her place filled by a woman of a 
very superior class. 

One by one the illiterate, one of whom, at least, 
179 M 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

could not read, were got rid of. Washing in the 
wards was strictly prohibited, all the nurses' 
clothes being sent to the laundry. 

But an unexpected difficulty arose when I 
announced that the wearing of black dresses 
would not any longer be permitted, the board 
having at my request undertaken to supply the 
nurses with uniform made of a washing material. 
They disliked the idea greatly, but an accidental 
occurrence helped me just at this juncture. The 
Lord Lieutenant announced his intention of 
visiting the hospital, of which he was ex qfficio 
president of the board of governors. 

We had just five days' notice of his Excellency's 
intention ; then, all being anxious to make a good 
appearance on the occasion, the making of the 
uniforms was hurried up, some of the nurses 
even offering, if given the material, to have them 
made for themselves. So we succeeded in having 
all the ward nurses dressed up in time to receive 
his Excellency and the Marchioness of Abercorn, 
the latter of whom took the greatest interest in 
the institution. Though the nurses disliked 
giving up the well-worn black dresses, they said 
nothing to me, and the enthusiasm which the Vice- 
regal visit excited helped to smooth matters. But 
I met with opposition from our old, and, indeed, 
for many reasons, respected head nurse. She had 
been in office for some twenty-five years, and 
though she was glad to see improvements effected, 


Improving the Rotunda Hospital 

disliked changes in old-established customs. She 
objected to the female pupils, who were specially 
under her supervision, being obliged to wear a 

She thought it derogatory, though she did not 
say that openly to me, but she did ask me " not 
to require the poor things to wear a cold calico 
dress in winter." Of course her appeal was in vain, 
but not one of them would go outside the door 
of the hospital wearing it. Thus one day I was 
summoned to see a lady who was taken suddenly 
ill in an hotel only a minute or two's walk from 
the hospital. Finding, on visiting her, that I 
needed the immediate assistance of a nurse, I 
wrote to the head to send over at once one of 
her pupils. She arrived quickly, but to my dismay 
dressed, in black. I asked her why she came so 
dressed, and she replied that " she could not walk 
across the street in her nurse's uniform " ! 

This incident shows the difficulties which I had 
to contend with in carrying out even the most 
obviously reasonable reforms, and why more was 
not effected by me. It was not till eight or nine 
years had elapsed that, during the mastership of 
Dr., now Sir William, Smyly, who had been 
my assistant during the latter part of my term, 
the posts of matron and head nurse were abolished, 
an efficient lady superintendent appointed, and 
the nursing staff organised, as in all well-managed 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

To Sir William Smyly great credit is further 
due for the success of his efforts to have a new 
gynaecological hospital built, for the reception of 
chronic cases now known as " the Cairnes Wing." 
The old house which I had induced the governors 
to convert to this purpose was unsuitable in view 
of modern requirements. It had originally been 
an asylum for the blind, and though it stood 
close to, it did not stand on the hospital property. 
The governors had been forced to buy it many 
years ago in self-defence, as it was about to be 
licensed as a public-house. It was connected 
with the hospital by an open corridor, and, till I 
became master, had always been known as " The 
Blind House." Then it was named, I think, on 
Dr. McClintock's suggestion, " The Auxiliary 
Hospital." It is now used as a residence for 
intern pupils. The present master, Dr. Hastings 
Tweedy, also has signalised his term of office by 
inducing the board to erect a building which pro- 
vides rooms for the nurses and accommodation 
for ladies studying medicine. 

The Rotunda is now the most complete, as it 
is the largest, hospital for women in the United 
Kingdom. Over 2,000 patients are on an 
average admitted annually into the lying-in 
wards. Over 2,000 more are attended at 
their own homes in connection with the 
extern maternity department, which I had the 
good fortune to establish. Some 500 cases of 


Improving the Rotunda Hospital 

chronic disease are admitted each year into 
the Cairnes Wing, many of these requiring 
operations of the greatest magnitude, while the 
number of poor women treated daily in the 
dispensary is very large. 

All honour be to the memory of Dr. Bartholo- 
mew Mosse, who originated the scheme, devised 
the plan, raised the money, and lived to see built 
this fine hospital. He died impoverished, and his 
life was shortened in consequence of his anxieties, 
cares, and worries ; but his memory will live as 
long as the massive walls of his hospital stand, 
and he will be honoured as one who has conferred 
the greatest benefits, not alone on the poor of 
Dublin or of Ireland, but on the human race in 
many climes, where the knowledge acquired 
within its walls has been employed by thousands 
of medical men for the relief of the sufferer and 
for the saving of life. 

As an example of distances from which students 
come to study at the Rotunda Hospital I may 
mention that I have a copy of a photograph taken 
in 1881 of the then intern pupils in a group, with 
the name and address of each of them written 
underneath. The latter reads as follows : " Cork, 
Derry, Kingstown, Copenhagen, London, Buenos 
Ayres, Monte Video, Bengal, United States, 
Leeds, Edinburgh, Cork " ; and this list is no- 
wise exceptional, though the localities from which 
they come may vary greatly. Before the civil 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

war in America, many students came from the 
southern States of the Union. They were 
invariably such nice, gentlemanly men, but 
slavery was a subject not to be touched on. Few 
came from the northern States. One of these 
was an amusing character, he must have been 
over thirty, and was a married man. Evidently 
his education had been of the most imperfect 
nature, but his industry was unbounded. He 
made, too, the quaintest remarks. He had taken 
a great fancy to me, and wanted me to go back 
with him. One day he said, " Come to Alabama, 
doctor, with me ; you will just drop down there, 
and pop up straight like a cork." Another time he 
said, " Doctor, I have been ten years in practice, 
but I tell you, till recently it was all poking in 
the dark with me." Poor fellow ! I wonder what 
became of him when the tide of civil war swept 
over his country. It was while I was assistant 
that this incident occurred. 




Withdrawing gradually Elected president of the College of Physi- 
cians Elected representative on the General Medical Council 
I give a banquet A part of the press resents my invitation to 
the Lord Lieutenant I come in for abuse A clever and amusing 
leading article I give a lift to a political opponent " Three 
acres and a cow " is first uttered An amusing allusion. 

MY seven years' term of office passed 
rapidly. During it I relinquished much 
of the most laborious part of my pro- 
fessional work, and as time passed on, still more ; 
till, after the exploration of fifty years' of strenuous 
professional life, I withdrew altogether from 

Before doing so the Fellows of the College of 
Physicians honoured me by electing me their 
president, and a little later also elected me their 
representative] on the General Medical Council, 
a seat on which I occupied for fourteen years. 
Then advancing age and its usual results led me 
to resign. 

While president I gave a banquet in the 
college hall, which his Excellency the Lord 
Lieutenant honoured with his presence. There 
were more than a hundred guests present. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

Party feeling was at that time running very 
high, and my action in inviting his Excellency 
was subsequently adversely commented on by a 
section of the press, specially as in his speech, 
when responding to the toast of his health, his 
Excellency strayed on to over-delicate ground, 
taking the opportunity of denying the truth of a 
statement which had been made in certain papers 
to the effect that a misunderstanding existed 
between him and the Chief Secretary, Mr. Arthur 

The next morning there appeared in the 
national papers violent criticisms of this speech, 
and, as already mentioned, I came in for a share 
of the abuse. This I looked upon as not only 
unfair, but a grave mistake on the critics' part, 
because in proposing the health, I said "that 
politics had no place in the college." Of course 
I took no public notice of the articles. Great, 
then, was my surprise to receive, some days later, 
a copy of The Nation, a very ably-conducted 
weekly paper of extreme political bias, and on 
opening it to find that, instead of being blamed, 
I was praised. 

The leading article was not only very cleverly 
written, but also very amusing. I have that 
paper still, and must quote a passage from it. 

Beginning with a wicked attack on his 
Excellency, it proceeds to say: "The Viceroy, 
according to himself, has never been regarded in 


I Give up Practice and Receive Honours 

his proper light. Ireland, curiously enough, has 
persisted in regarding him as the Chief Secre- 
tary's Castle lackey, but luckily, the Lord 
Lieutenant has now been enabled to set public 
opinion right. 

" When the great Napoleon accomplished his 
famous descent upon the plains of Italy, he made 
the passage of the precipitous and dangerous 
Alpine passes safely, but ingloriously, on a dull, 
slow-paced mountain donkey. When, however, 
the period of triumph came and the imperial 
diadem pressed his brow, the painter David repre- 
sented the Emperor mounted on a fiery Arabian 
steed performing impossible feats of horseman- 
ship on the slippery slopes of ice. 

" Somewhat similar in effect has been the 
portrait-painting of his Excellency. The majority 
of the people of Ireland have been picturing the 
Chief Secretary as painfully struggling through 
the dangerous defiles of Irish difficulties, with 
the aid of an ass, but now it seems that the ass 
was a spirited charger and never owned a rider 
at all. 

" Wondrous change ! It matters nothing to 
the Lord Lieutenant that Dr. Atthill, the 
eminent and courteous president of the great 
and distinguished institution which entertained 
his Lordship, had virtually warned him, when 
introducing his name to the assembled guests, 
that, though living in a time when politics had 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

assumed a most virulent complexion and party 
spirit ran high, yet in that Hall politics were 
unknown, his Excellency would take no hint." 

Much as I was amused by reading this article, 
much more was I astonished at finding myself 
spoken of as being " eminent and courteous," 
and I could not imagine who the writer could be. 
The paper was one I hardly ever saw, and I did 
not know who the editor was. During the day 
I made inquiries, and learned that it was owned 
and edited by Mr. T. D. Sullivan, one of a very 
talented family. This information gave me a 
clue to the kindly reference to myself. 

During the previous summer I had resided in 
a house situated on the south side of the promon- 
tory of Howth, some ten miles from Dublin, and 
I used to go into town every morning by an 
early train. The railway station being three 
miles from the house, 1 had to drive down. The 
last mile of the road ran close to the seashore, 
and was devoid of any shelter. On one very 
inclement morning I drove down as usual in a 
wagonette. I always drove myself, so sat in 
front, the servant being seated beside me, and as 
it was pouring rain, and no one else was going 
with me, I ordered the cushions to be taken off the 
back part of the vehicle and left them behind. 

It was blowing a gale in our faces, and just as 
I reached the most exposed part of the road I 
saw in front of me a gentleman dressed in a black 


I Give up Practice and Receive Honours 

frock coat, trying to defend himself from the 
rain and struggling to make headway against the 
storm. As soon as I came up with him, I pulled 
up and said, " Sir, if you do not mind sitting on 
a seat without cushions I shall be happy to give 
you a lift." He thanked me as he got in, as he 
also did on reaching the station, where we arrived 
just in time to catch the train. 

A day or two after, this gentleman came on 
the platform where I was standing and bowed 
courteously to me. As I did not know who he 
was, I turned to a porter and asked who 
that gentleman was. He replied, " Sure, that is 
Mr. Sullivan." Evidently I had taken " an angel 
unawares" into my carriage on the preceding 
day, and months after was repaid by his kind 
allusion to me in his paper. I never met him 

This reminds me that about a year previously 
to this incident I had heard him make one of the 
aptest after-dinner speeches I ever remember. 
It was at a dinner given by the members of the 
Royal Hibernian Academy, on the evening 
preceding their opening day, at which I was a 
guest, Mr. Sullivan at that time filled the office 
of Lord Mayor of Dublin, and as such his 
health was proposed by the chairman. It was 
not very long after a hotly contested general 
election, during which a candidate, I think it 
was Mr. Jesse Collings, in a speech advocating 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

the claims of agricultural labourers and the 
necessity of encouraging the allotment of land 
to them, declared that in his opinion every 
such man should have " three acres and a cow." 
The saying caught on, and was frequently 
quoted. Well, Mr. Sullivan in his speech 
returning thanks, after alluding to advantages 
which followed the cultivation of art, etc., 
paused for a moment, and then, speaking slowly 
and with much solemnity, said to this effect : " I 
am aware that in this room politics or any 
allusion to politics are forbidden, but with 
regret I feel I must break through this rule, for 
looking around me, I am rilled with the desire 
to be the possessor of " three acres and a cow," 
pointing, as he spoke, to a painting hanging 
close by, representing a cow quietly feeding on 
green pasture, in close contiguity to a pretty 
cottage. I never had heard greater applause or 
such hearty laughter as followed. I believe he 
and his talented brother are both long since 



The cares and trials of a medical man Ungrateful patients And 
grateful Patients who make a change A revolution in the 
practice of medicine Sulphuric ether Recollections of leading 
men Some anecdotes The lady's shilling fee Sir Dominic 
Corrigan The fat surgeon and the thin, and the highwayman 
Some more stories My many friends Compensations. 

I FOUND it nearly as difficult to' give up 
practice as it had been at one time to gain 
it. It was with real reluctance that I had 
to refuse to see patients, for many of whom I 
felt a sincere regard, and whose welfare I desired. 
A medical man's life is ever full of cares and 
worries, disappointments, failures, and successes ; 
the slow growth of practice, the disappointment 
of not being employed by persons you expected 
would do so, the discovery that a patient 
leaves you in favour of another you may believe 
to be less worthy of confidence than yourself, 
are trials for beginners and are even felt by 
seniors. But such things are inevitable. 

Then the anxiety about serious cases, and the 
painful feeling of disappointment if one fails to 
save life. More difficult to bear is the blame, 
often so unjustly laid to the charge of even the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

most careful and skilful physician. Sometimes, 
indeed, a charge is made, if not with the 
intention of injuring him, at any rate as an 
excuse for leaving him and going to another. 
Patients are quite free to make such changes, 
though seldom wise, unless they are sure that 
the grounds for doing so are very good ; but 
certainly care should be taken not to say any- 
thing not strictly true as an excuse for so doing. 

But there are compensations a doctor often 
become the patient's valued and trusted friend. 
And justly so, for though there are bad men in 
the profession they are, I am satisfied, fewer in 
proportion than in any other calling. The grati- 
tude of patients, too, is often great and lasting. 
I am old, and years have elapsed since I had any 
under my care, but there are those who still 
remember me. This is manifested in many ways. 
But whether patients be grateful or not, it is a 
pleasure in the decline of life to know that this 
or that person has been restored to health, or 
their life saved though my instrumentality. 

Looking back over that long space of time, it 
seems to me impossible for anyone to convey to 
the student of the present day an adequate idea 
of the revolution in the practice of medicine 
and surgery which has followed the great 
discoveries made in all branches of medical 
science within little more than half a century. 
Although insensibility had been produced 


A Retrospect 

previously by the inhalation of sulphuric ether, 
anaesthetics as we now understand them were 
unknown. Though water was known to swarm 
with animalcules, bacteria as a cause of disease 
was not dreamt of. Cholera and the allied 
diseases were looked upon as scourges to be 
combated as each man best could by the 
proper use of drugs, etc., but no one thought it 
possible to prevent the epidemic, when it 
occurred, from spreading except by the crude 
method of quarantine, or of tracing the cause of 
the original outbreak to its source. Patients 
suffering from all forms of fever, including small- 
pox, scarlatina, etc., were shut up in closely 
curtained rooms from which fresh air and light 
were excluded. Consumptives, in like manner, 
were kept indoors in close, warm, ill- ventilated 
rooms. Any old woman was deemed good 
enough for a nurse ; and cleanliness, as regarded 
the utensils in the sick-room, little thought of. 
Bleeding, though going out, was still practised, 
and the application of leeches frequent. Perhaps, 
in this respect, the reaction against any form of 
blood-letting is being carried too far. 

My recollections of the leading men of the 
profession at the time I joined it, and of the 
kindness I received from some of these, are 
amongst the pleasantest memories of my old age. 
Crampton, Marsh, Stokes, Corrigan and Graves 
were medical men second to none in their day, 

I.D, 193 N 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

and had raised the reputation of the Dublin 
School of Medicine high in public esteem. 

Sir Philip Crampton, though still on the staff 
of the Meath Hospital, was well-nigh past work, 
only coming occasionally to see an operation or 
as a consultant. He was a handsome old man 
with a fine presence, and was in the habit of 
driving himself about in a high mail phaeton, 
well horsed. In it he nearly ended my career 
during my first year, for, as I was leaving Trinity 
College one morning, he turned so suddenly out 
of Nassau Street into Grafton Street as I was 
in the act of crossing that I barely had time to 
save myself by throwing my hands against the 
near horse's chest ; fortunately the horses, 
though high steppers, were not going fast, and I 
got off with a shaking. 

Graves and Carmichael were both still living. 
Of the former great physician I knew but little. 
He had ceased to be connected with the Meath 
before I was apprenticed. Carmichael met his 
death by drowning in a sad way ; riding across 
the strand at Sutton to reach his country house, 
he was overtaken by the tide, which was running 
in strongly, and mistaking his course his horse 
stumbled ; he was thrown into deep water and 
perished. He was a very charitable man, and 
to his donation of a large sum of money the 
success of the Medical Benevolent Society of 
Ireland is mainly due. He was a good surgeon, 


A Retrospect 

though not so well known as others I have 

Stokes I was fortunate to have as a teacher, 
and to count as a kind friend in after-life a 
man of great ability, but of varying moods. At 
one time he would be a genial and delightful 
companion, full of anecdote, and then, again, he 
would be quite the reverse, remaining, even in 
genial company, quite silent. He has kept me 
for half an hour chatting in his study, though I 
told him his waiting-room was full of patients. 
He was indifferent, too, about making money, 
and died a comparatively poor man. He was a 
most reliable consultant, though occasionally he 
would give his opinion in a way that astonished 
the regular attendant. Thus, being called in to 
see an old lady, whose relatives had been told by 
the attending physician that her case was 
hopeless, he surprised the latter by saying, " I 
think that old lady will pull through." " Why," 
was the rejoinder, " has she not so and so ? " 
entering fully into his views of the case. " Yes," 
replied Stokes, "you are quite right, but I know 
all about her ; her life is no use to anybody, and 
I think she will recover." And I believe his 
prognosis proved true. 

Very different was his contemporary, Sir 
Dominic Corrigan. Dr. Alfred Hudson who 
for many years enjoyed a large practice, and was 
loved by all who knew him called Stokes " the 

195 N 2 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

poetry " and Corrigan " the prose " of medicine 
a most apt phrase. 

Corrigan had for years the largest practice in 
Ireland. He was very particular about his fees, 
and necessarily so, for a large number of the 
patients who thronged his waiting-rooms were 
members of the lower middle class from the 
country districts, who not infrequently tried to 
evade paying the fee. An amusing illustration 
of this came to my knowledge in this manner : 

I was elected registrar of the College of 
Physicians at the end of Sir Dominic's first 
year's tenure of office as president. It was a 
very busy time with me, for the building of the 
new college had just commenced, in which the 
president took an active interest, and he directed 
me to report to him every matter of any 
importance which might occur in reference 
thereto, or any college matter I might want 
advice about, so I not infrequently called at his 
house during his consultation hours. I used to 
wait in the hall till the patient came out of his 
study, when he always saw me at once. His 
manservant, who had been for some time in his 
service, used, while I waited, to entertain me with 
various scraps of semi-professional news. Calling 
one day, I found this man gone and a new 
man in his place, with whom I had a chat. 
About a fortnight elapsed ere I called again, and 
on doing so I said, " I hope you are getting on 


A Retrospect 

well." " Oh, no," he replied ; " I am leaving 
to-morrow." Asking the cause, he told me this 
story : " It was a simple thing," he said ; " there 
were a great lot of patients waiting to see the 
doctor the other day, and amongst them a lady 
from Cork. Well, the doctor had to go away 
before he had seen them all ; this lady was 
among those left and was greatly put out, saying 
she had come all the way just to see him. I 
said, ' Don't mind ; come early to-morrow, and I 
will take care you see him at once.' Well, she 
gave me a shilling, and I put her in first the 
very next day. All went on well till she was 
leaving the study without giving the fee. So 
the doctor says, ' My fee, ma'am.' ' Your fee ? ' 
says she ; ' did not I give the man in the hall 
a shilling ? ' He called me in and asked me 
was this true, and I said it was, and he gave 
me warning at the minute ; but, you know, the 
place would not be worth holding if it was not 
for what the patients give." I burst out 
laughing, and at that moment the study door 
opened, and Sir Dominic, hearing me laugh, 
asked what it was about. I told him, and he 
said it was quite true, and joined in the laugh 

No doubt it was usual for doctors' servants 
to look out for tips from patients, but for this 
woman coolly to pretend that she thought a 
shilling given to the servant constituted the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

doctor's fee is a good illustration of Irish 
character amongst a certain class, and their 
" 'cuteness " in finding an excuse to try and 
evade paying the debt. 

But such meanness is far from being universal. 
Personally I have no reason to complain of 
patients of the class of which I have spoken ; 
they generally dealt fairly with me ; indeed, the 
very opposite principle influences some namely, 
that unless the doctor is paid an adequate fee he 
would not do his best for them. Thus, on one 
occasion, a woman of evidently quite the poor 
farmer class was ushered into my consulting- 
room. She came from a remote district in 
Connaught, wore neither bonnet nor hat, merely 
the customary shawl over her head. I soon 
detected that her case was hopeless ; she suffered 
from a terrible complaint in such an advanced 
stage that I feared she might die ere she reached 
her distant home. So I advised her to return 
the next day, and that I would write to the 
local doctor, though she had not brought any 
introduction to me. She thanked me, asked me 
my fee, and paid it, asking, further, what the fee 
would be the next time she came. I said that 
as she had not, I presumed, much money to 
spare, I would not ask for any fee the next time, 
adding that I strongly advised her to return 
home at once. She withdrew, and another 
patient was ushered in, on whose departure my 


A Retrospect 

servant came in, and said that the country 
woman wished to speak to me again, when she 
said she thought me very kind, but that she 
wished to remain in town, and that she preferred 
paying the " regular thing " that is, a guinea 
every time she came to me. Suspicion is a 
very strong characteristic of all classes of the 
Irish peasantry. 

Sir Dominic Corrigan died rather suddenly 
while still in active practice. The Fellows of 
the College of Physicians elected him president 
five times consecutively, an honour never pre- 
viously conferred, and which he fully deserved, 
for it was through his instrumentality the present 
handsome college was erected, and to the end of 
his life he took the greatest interest in all college 
matters. To me he was the kindest of friends. 

Sir Henry Marsh, though an older man, was a 
contemporary of Stokes. He had a very large 
and fashionable practice; was fond of show; 
kept a number of handsome horses, and for 
coachman the best whip in Ireland. He always 
dashed through the streets at a great pace, 
which, had it not been for the skill of his coach- 
man, would have been dangerous. He was not 
genial like Stokes, and, probably from his some- 
what distant manner, not popular amongst the 
rank and file of the profession, though liked by 
his personal friends, whom he sought chiefly 
amongst the aristocracy. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

Dr. Thomas Beatty, who had a very large 
practice, was one of the most popular men of his 
day ; he was alike a favourite with the members 
of his profession, with the public, and with his 
patients. He was a fine-looking man, with a 
ruddy, hairless face ; had a beautiful though not 
strong voice, and sang sweetly ; was full of 
amusing anecdotes, specially relating to medical 
men of a previous generation, told to him by his 
father, who also had been a medical practitioner; 
in fact, he was a regular raconteur, and in all 
respects a delightful after-dinner companion. I 
regret that I have now forgotten most of the 
stories I heard him relate, but the following I 
can give correctly : 

Mr. Solomon Richards, who died in 1819, was 
in his day a leading Irish surgeon. He had the 
reputation of being the fattest and biggest 
surgeon in the United Kingdom. Ireland at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century was in a 
most unsettled state even the roads about 
Dublin were not safe after dark, robberies and 
even murders not being uncommon. 

Well, Richards was called on to perform an 
operation near Santry, a village some ten miles 
from Dublin, and was detained with the patient 
till long after sunset. It was winter, and he was 
returning in his carriage, having with him a Dr. 
Obr, who had called him in, a physician at that 
time in good practice, and who was as spare 


A Retrospect 

and insignificant as Richards was the reverse. 
Suddenly the carriage was stopped, and a foot- 
pad, opening the door on the side next which 
Richards sat, presented a pistol and demanded 
his purse. Richards, begging him to lower his 
pistol, handed him the purse, and then his watch, 
which the robber demanded. Then followed the 
demand, " Have you anything else ? " " Yes," 
replied Richards ; " here is my case of instru- 
ments," handing them out promptly. All this 
time Obr was concealed hid by Richards's 
huge frame, which, in the dark, seemed to fill 
the carriage and the footpad, not observing 
him, called to the coachman to drive on, but 
Richards stopped him, saying, " Oh, no ; not till 
you speak to my friend on the other side of me." 
So Obr, too, thus pointed out, was relieved of 
his money and watch. Then the robber politely 
said " Good-night." But Richards was not yet 
done with him, and said, " My friend, you would 
not have got that gentleman's money if it had 
not been for me. Now, my instruments won't 
bring you ten shillings in Charles Street " (a street 
which was, and still is, the mart for all kinds of 
second-hand tools and iron), " while to me they 
are of value. I think you might give me them 
back." "Well, I will," was the prompt reply, 
and the case was handed in. " One word more," 
said Richards ; " you will get very little for that 
old watch. I care for it because it was my 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

father's. Let me have it." " Well, you are a 
decent fellow," said the rohber ; " here it is." 
Then they drove on. Obr then, in great anger, 
broke the silence, and in unmeasured terms 
abused Richards, declaring that it was mean of 
him to point him out, as otherwise he would 
have escaped. Richards let him talk for a while, 
and then quietly said, " Do you think I was 
going to allow you to boast in the club to- 
morrow how well you got off while Richards 
was robbed ? Oh, no ; if I was to be robbed you 
must be also." Dr. Beatty assured me that this 
story was strictly true. 

Beatty was not only good company, but enjoyed 
a good dinner thoroughly, and, to secure good 
care for himself at public dinners, made it a rule 
to tip the waiter beforehand liberally. He told 
me the following amusing incident in connection 
therewith : 

The dinner Was at the Mansion House, where 
in old days hospitality was lavish. Everything 
was good and plentiful save that Beatty had 
some difficulty in getting as much bread as he 
wished for ; and, having had to ask for a fresh 
supply of it more than once, apologised to the 
waiter, saying, "You see, I eat a deal of 
bread with my meat." " Yes, sir," replied 
the waiter, " and a deal of meat with the 

Everyone liked Beatty, and we all felt much 

A Retrospect 

regret that his declining years were saddened. 
First his wife died ; then his only daughter, 
whom he idolised, made a match of which he did 
not approve. She and her husband, a doctor, 
lived in a remote part of Ireland, and he saw 
little, if anything, of her subsequently ; while his 
only other child, a son, grievously disappointed 
him. To me he was the kindest of friends. 

Dr. Montgomery, one of the professors in the 
University of Dublin, was an eloquent speaker, 
but a very different man from Beatty. He was 
small, but not insignificant-looking, and had a 
great idea of his personal appearance, of which 
he was vain. He always wore a white tie, and a 
diamond stud in his shirt front. It was told of 
him that he caused no little merriment at a 
dinner party all the guests being medical men 
where the conduct of a lady said to be fast was 
discussed, it being stated that her husband was 
very jealous of her. Montgomery took no part 
in the conversation for some time, but a pause 
occurring, said, " Well, gentlemen, I don't believe 

one word of those stories. Mrs. has been 

my patient for months past. I have seen her 
over and over again alone in her house and at 

mine, and I can assure you Captain never 

once showed the least jealousy of me." At 
this time Montgomery was long past seventy, 
and looked it. 

I have pleasant recollections of many others, 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

who, though senior to me, were more or less my 
contemporaries Dr. Samuel Gordon, Alfred 
Hudson, Sir William Wilde, Robert Mayne, 
and others. Gordon, the colleague of Sir 
Dominic Corrigan, and Dr. Alfred Hudson, 
were both charming men genial, but quiet and 
unassuming in manner, esteemed by their pro- 
fessional brethren, loved by their patients. Sir 
William Wilde, the oculist, was brusque in 
manner and as wild in appearance as his name, 
a great conversationalist, and a welcome guest 

Gordon, though a retiring man, was full of 
quiet humour ; he told a story well. One of 
himself amused us much. A country woman, a 
farmer's wife, consulted him, her main complaint 
being that she constantly "reefed up wind," 
meaning thereby frequent eructations, no doubt 
kept up by the habit so common amongst the 
lower orders, at least in Ireland, of forcing such. 
Dr. Gordon prescribed for this woman asafoetida 
pills. Some months elapsed before he saw the 
patient again; he had forgotten all about her, 
so he again prescribed the same pills. She took 
the prescription and looking at it said, " Why, 
this is the same old asafoetida pills again ; they 
did me no good." Gordon hesitated a moment, 
and then asked her how she took them, and was 
told that she " swallowed them with a drop of 
water." " That, ma'am, was your mistake," he 


A Retrospect 

gravely said. " You should hold them in your 
mouth, chew them well, and swallow them 
slowly." She went away quite pleased to try the 
new method of taking pills. 

I had the good fortune to know and enjoy 
the friendship of many of the leading men 
amongst the Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, 
in my day. The Rev. John H. Jellett, who was 
provost, had been my tutor, and on his being 
appointed a professor, in 1848, I was transferred 
to Dr. Carson's care. He subsequently became 
vice-provost ; and both were amongst my 
kindest as they were my most valued friends 
in after-life. I was also honoured by the 
friendship of the late provost, Dr. Salmon, who 
to his great abilities added a most genial manner, 
and was a delightful host. He was in the habit, 
as he left chapel on Sunday morning, of inviting 
some of the Fellows to breakfast with him, and, 
as I was frequently present, often included me 
amongst those invited. These friendly reunions 
were very pleasant. His death was a great loss to 
the college. He was a great man. His wife 
predeceased him by many years. On her tomb- 
stone is engraved this brief epitaph : 

"The heart of her husband did safely trust ih her." 

These words truly express their mutual relations. 
Her death was a grievous affliction, but she left 
a daughter who to a great degree filled her place 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

and was his true and faithful companion till his 

Dr. Jellett was a very handsome man ; he died 
while comparatively young. After the dis- 
establishment of the Irish Church he took a very 
active part in the proceedings which ended in its 
successful reconstruction. He was a frequent 
speaker during the debates in the Synod on the 
revision of the Liturgy. He was a nervous man, 
and showed this when commencing to speak, 
which he always did with great lucidity. Rising 
generally at the conclusion of the debate, he not 
infrequently summed up the arguments of the 
previous speakers with great terseness and vigour. 
This led to the epigrammatic words spoken by 
Dr. Alexander, the venerable Primate of the 
Church of Ireland, on one of these occasions : 
" He (Dr. Jellett) is the clarifier of the intellect 
of the country party," meaning thereby the 
representatives in the Synod, lay and clerical, 
coming from country districts, and this in con- 
sequence of the powerful influence his words had 
on them ; and to the day of his death he was 
often spoken of as the " clarifier." He was a 
kind friend to me, and I greatly regretted his 
untimely death. 

Dr. Carson was endowed with the possession 
of a wonderful memory. He knew the Bible 
virtually off by heart, and if you quoted a text, 
he could go on and repeat the whole chapter ; and 


A Retrospect 

woe to you if you misquoted in his presence, you 
would be corrected instanter ! 

He was the terror of the unprepared under- 
graduate, and there were endless stories of his 
strictness. I much doubt if they were all well 
founded. In my own case he examined me for 
my "Little Go," which in the University of 
Dublin means the examination held at the end of 
the second university year. At that time I was 
a perfect stranger to him, and was greatly afraid 
lest I should fail, for in my position to fail 
would have been a very serious matter. Well, 
having translated a bit of a Latin author, he told 
me to read a passage he pointed out. 1 was ever 
but a poor classical scholar, but I knew that there 
was a " catch " somewhere in it where, I did not 
know ; so I read it in a remarkable manner, hoping 
by a guess to hit off the unknown snare. Having 
finished, he smiled, as was his invariable habit 
when he caught a man in the wrong, and said, 
" Mr. Atthill, most men make one mistake in that 
passage, but you have made two." With that 
he dismissed me, crestfallen and in terror ; but 
I need not have feared, his opinion of my 
answering was not a very bad one. 

Many years after, when I was the trusted 
medical attendant of his wife, whose life, if I 
could not save, I certainly prolonged, I reminded 
him of that incident I rather think he was dining 
with me and we laughed heartily at it. 



I take once more to yachting My boatman's only compliment The 
growth of my yachts A ao-tonner Yachting not an unmixed 
pleasure An anxious night at sea We shelter in Lough Ryan 
Kept in Douglas Harbour during six days of storm Men who 
are not yachtsmen. 

To many professional men who have lived 
an active life the retiring from practice 
is a great trial. They feel as did Sir 
Astley Cooper, who, having bought an estate in 
Yorkshire, sold his house in London, settling 
down, as he believed, to enjoy a happy old age 
in the country, only to find the want of actual 
employment unbearable. So he returned to town 
and resumed his practice. Others struggle on, 
clinging to their work, though mental and physical 
powers have deteriorated. Fortunately, it was not 
so with me, and feeling that I was less capable than 
formerly of doing my duty to my patients, I felt 
but little regret at giving up work, and since then 
time has never hung heavy on my hands. 

Even before I had entirely withdrawn from 
practice I had taken up yachting once more, for 
I had never lost my taste for it. But now that 
I was able to enjoy this pleasant sport again, I 


Renewing my Youth 

was glad to find I retained something of my old 
skill in handling the sails and in steering. The 
boatman I took out with me had frequently 
expressed his scorn about the sailing of 
amateurs, but one day he asked me, " Is it 
long since you kept a yacht ? " 

" A good bit over forty years," I replied. 

" Well," said he, " then you do not steer too 

That is the only compliment I ever received 
from him, but heard a great deal less about 
amateurs after it. Sailors do not care for the 
owner to take the sailing of a yacht into his 
own hands, if they can help it, and often try to 
make him feel that he knows nothing about it. 

That little yacht soon gave place to a larger, 
and then to one of twenty tons, in which I used 
to spend many weeks at a time, going to Scot- 
land and elsewhere, almost every year, till old 
age, with its loss of ability to withstand the 
fatigue and exposure necessarily incidental to 
seafaring, compelled me very reluctantly to give 
up yachting altogether. 

The pleasure I used to experience in sailing a 
well-found yacht on a fine day, with a fresh 
breeze blowing, was the greatest I have ever had. 
The pure air blowing in one's face ; the bright 
sun ; the glittering sea ; the dash of spray that 
comes on deck or, it may be, sprinkles one's face as 
the boat throws the water off her bows ; the feeling 

I.D. 209 O 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

as you meet with the helm ; of the vessel's inces- 
sant tendency to swerve from her course as the 
force of the wind or her sails lessens, increases, or 
varies in direction, and makes one almost fancy 
she must be a living thing these, with the 
motion as the vessel dances over the waves, are 
all exhilarating to a degree ; and the man who at 
such times retires into his cabin to pass the time 
in reading, smoking, or in sleep, does not deserve 
to be called a yachtsman ; yet there are many such. 

But yachting is far from being an unmarred 
pleasure. The fine bright day may become 
wearisome from lack of wind. A flat calm (I 
speak of sailing yachts) is more trying than a 
gale of wind, for if in the latter there be anxiety 
and discomfort, the absolute helplessness, the 
result of a calm, tries one's patience. Then you 
may have first the one and then the other 
following closely. If after storm comes the calm, 
so after the calm may come the storm. 

Thus on one occasion returning from the Clyde 
we sailed from Lamlash at 6 a.m. for I wanted to 
get home with a light breeze blowing in our 
favour. We carried all possible sail, setting even 
a large spinnaker, but even so we only made 
Ailsa Craig at 6 p.m., some thirty miles in twelve 
hours. I dined about then. I had no companion 
other than the two sailors, so was not long 
below ; but, on coming up on deck, I found all 
changed. The sun was hidden by heavy clouds, 


Renewing my Youth 

it had become chilly, and the wind was rising ; 
the glass, too, had commenced to fall. We took 
in sail at once, and then put down a reef in the 
mainsail, for the wind had become strong, and 
we had the night before us. By the time this was 
done it was eight o'clock ; then, having lit our 
lamps, I told the men to go and lie down and 
that I would keep the first watch till midnight, 
when they would relieve me. 

Soon it began to rain heavily, and, though I 
had on a suit of good oilskins and a sou' -wester, 
was wet through before twelve o'clock. But the 
wetting was the least part of the trouble. The 
darkness became inky I could not see beyond 
the end of the bowsprit. Then I heard the noise 
of steamers all round me as they came down 
from Glasgow. We were right in their course ! 
There the danger lay, for they might easily fail to 
see us as they came up from behind. We had 
no light aft, and I could not fail remembering 
that not many years previously a nephew of 
mine had been run down by one of these Glasgow 
steamers, in a small yacht at night, and that, 
though his sailors escaped, of him or his yacht 
no tidings were ever heard. I need not say I 
did not like the proximity of these steamers. 

At about 1 1 p.m. I made out Corsewall Light, 
situated at the extreme south-west end of the 
Clyde. I only got a glimpse of it for a few minutes ; 
then it was lost to sight in the inky darkness. 

211 o 2 

The wind had changed and now nearly headed us. 
The tide too was running against us. A little 
before twelve, one of the sailors came on deck. 
I told him that I believed we might be a little 
way outside Corsewall Point, but that I had lost 
the light for some time. 

Before taking the tiller the man went forward 
to look if our light were burning well, and 
peered into the darkness that surrounded us ; then 
after a minute or two exclaimed, " What light is 
that I see ? " I, too, saw it. It was Corsewall, 
which a break in the clouds permitted me to see 
again. I had riot realised how slowly we were 
sailing with a strong tide against us. As the 
wind was increasing, and as we had still some 
shelter from the land, I decided not to attempt 
to cross to Belfast, but to lie-to till daylight off 
the lighthouse. This we did. Soon after 3 a.m. 
we were able to see the outline of the coast, and 
as it was now blowing a whole gale, we took in 
another reef in our mainsail and sought safety 
in Lough Ryan, a sheltered but shallow bay, 
which lies behind Corsewall Point. It was six 
o'clock before we reached a safe anchorage. Wet 
and weary, I had been at the helm from 8 p.m. 
without any intermission. Then we all turned 
in and slept. Such is the open side of a yachts- 
man's life ; but though I was not sorry to get 
back to the comforts of home, I was, in a day or 
two, quite ready to be off again. 


Renewing my Youth 

Another time, after a delightful run, we 
anchored at night in Douglas Harbour, to find in 
the morning a gale of wind blowing and heavy 
rain falling. There we lay for six days, during 
the whole of which time the rain never ceased, 
and if we went ashore, it was clad in oilskins 
and wearing sea-boots. That also was not a 
pleasant experience. Nevertheless, did health 
and strength permit, I would be off yachting 

My great difficulty always was to get a suit- 
able companion for these cruises. Young men 
who like jollifications on shore, and perhaps a good 
deal of grog, did not care to come with me, or I 
prefer their company ; and middle-aged men were 
too busy or did not like the sea. One friend 
sailed often with me. He was a first-class 
yachtsman and a nice fellow. Death, alas 1 
deprived me of his society. 

My experience is that comparatively few men 
who keep yachts really care for yachting. They 
like a sail of a fine day ; they like the excitement 
of racing against vessels of their own class ; they 
like, if well off, to entertain their friends on 
board ; but they get sick of it if bad weather 
comes on, bringing with it discomfort, or the 
tedium of being weather-bound in some out-of 
the-way harbour. Of course, the owners of 
steam yachts are not yachtsmen in the proper 
acceptation of the term, any more than the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

owners of a motor or motor-bicycle are whips or 

But though yachting is for me a thing of the 
past, and though I can now cycle but a very 
short distance, time, thank God ! does not ever 
lie heavy on my hands. Each day brings its 



Advantages of the medical profession An ungrateful patient 
Unappreciative patients The question of fees The Australian 
lady and her generous husband Success in cases, not money, 
the delight of doctors Undeserved credit The too obedient 
patient Some false teeth stories Old age something to be proud 
of Going to extremes. 

LOOKING back on my professional life, 
extending as it does over quite half a 
century, and bearing in mind all the 
anxieties, worries, and disappointments incident 
thereto, I would nevertheless, had I to begin life 
again, choose the profession of medicine in 
preference to any other calling. For one thing, 
I have always felt that in it a man is more inde- 
pendent and has greater freedom in the use of 
his personal exertions than in any other ; given 
an opening, and nearly everything else depends 
on the use he makes of it. 

I hardly know which is now my predominant 
feeling as I think of old times and of former 
patients regret, akin to pain, at the recollection 
of the ingratitude shown by a few, or the pleasing 
memories of the gratitude, kindly feeling, and 
friendship manifested by so many. Human 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

nature is prone to bear in mind the annoyances 
of life, and to forget the pleasures and blessings. 

The ingratitude of one patient I shall 
never forget. I was a young man when I 
attended her during a very serious illness, and as 
the nurse she had was one of the old school, and 
disposed to think more of her own comfort than 
of the patient's needs, I did various things the 
nurse should have done for her, and I ever 
believed that she owed her life to my unremitting 
attendance. She lived two miles from me, yet I 
visited her for a considerable time two or three 
times a day, for I could not trust the nurse, 
without seeking any remuneration for my extra 
visits. When convalescent she was profuse in 
her thanks, but not long after I heard that she 
said I should never again enter her house. 
Nor did I. 

I recollect my old friend Mr. Collis telling 
me one of his experiences. He attended many 
patients gratuitously whom he knew to be poor, 
amongst these a widow lady, who was dying 
slowly of cancer and who, though unable to pay a 
fee, would send for him unnecessarily and at 
unreasonable hours. She had two daughters 
who earned a scanty livelihood as governesses. 
One of these daughters, after her mother's death, 
married a gentleman with good means, and got 
into society. From that day she ignored Mr. 
Collis, and seemed to have forgotten his former 


Further Retrospect 

kindness and liberality ; but Sir Henry Marsh's 
carriage was to be seen frequently at her door, he 
being then the fashionable physician. Of this, 
of course, Mr. Collis took no notice ; but one day 
a lady came to his house bearing a letter from 
his former patient, the ex-governess, saying that, 
knowing of old his great kindness to those who 
were poor, she sent this patient who was not 
able to give a fee, and trusted that he would 
prescribe for her. Mr. Collis proved that he 
deserved the title of " good," for he placed this 
lady on his long list of gratuitous patients. 

My own experience corresponds with that of 
Mr. Collis, namely, that patients from whom 
you do not take a feei\not infrequently show but 
little gratitude the thing which costs nothing 
seems but little valued. I say the same with 
even greater emphasis with respect to patients 
who, in consequence of their supposed inability 
to pay the usual fee, you treat with consideration. 
Many patients do not appreciate your kindness. 

This was exemplified in a somewhat comic 
manner in the case of a young lady who came 
under my own care suffering from an ailment 
which, though causing discomfort and occasion- 
ally showing painful symptoms, did not interfere 
with her general health. She and her sister 
lived in apartments, and I had reason to believe 
that their means were somewhat limited ; so 
being anxious to lessen the expense illness entails, 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

I was careful to fix the dates on which she 
should again consult me as far apart as possible, 
as well as being considerate in the matter of 
fees. She continued under my care for about 
three months ; then, being of opinion that treat- 
ment should be discontinued for a little time, 
and that change of air was desirable, I advised 
her to accept an invitation she had received to 
visit friends in the country. To this she agreed. 
The date I had fixed for seeing her again had 
passed, when one afternoon I received a telegram 
from a medical man practising in Bray, some 
twelve miles from Dublin, requesting me to see 
a patient of his there with the least possible 
delay. I went as soon as possible, and to my 
surprise found that it was my own patient I was 
called to consult about. I had supposed her to 
be in the North of Ireland. It came out that, 
instead of adopting my advice, she had gone to 
a physician well known to be very particular 
about his fees, and had placed herself under his 
care ; that she had seen him twice a week, and 
to be able to keep her appointments with him 
moved only this short distance from town. But 
being taken suddenly ill during the night she 
had sent for the local medical man, who, alarmed 
at her condition, telegraphed for the doctor 
under whose care she said she was. Finding that 
this doctor was from home, he wired to me, not 
knowing that the lady had been a patient of 


Further Retrospect 

mine. I only saw her that one time. I know 
she recovered from that attack, but of her future 
history 1 am ignorant. Of this I am sure, that 
medical attendance cost her three times as much 
as had she remained under my care. I believe, 
had I accepted regularly my usual fee from her, 
I should have retained my patient. 

Some patients are fond of changing their 
medical attendant. They are quite free, but 
seldom wise to do so, and had better not, without 
good reason. On one occasion a lady consulted 
me, telling me she had been a patient of my 
friend Dr. Kidd, but had left him to come to 
me. Finding that she lived in a remote part of 

Ireland, I asked her if she knew Mrs. , who 

resided in that district. She said "that they 
did not visit, but that she had seen her in Dr. 
Kidd's waiting-room a few days before." So his 
patient came to me, and mine went to him at 
just the same time. 1 never cared for this class 
of patients. 

The question of fees is sometimes troublesome. 
For my own part I had little to complain of in 
this respect. As a physician I kept no books, 
and as a rule received my fee then and there. 
Sometimes a patient would ask, " Will you allow 
the fees to lie over for the present ? " and I 
invariably said " Yes," not always wisely. Thus 
on one occasion a lady, the wife of a captain in 
the Line, made this request. She was under my 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

care for some time, and got much better, so I 
said she need not come to me any more. She 
asked me how much she was in my debt. I 
knew her husband to be a member of a good but 
far from wealthy family, and she had, moreover, 
more than once spoken of their means being 
limited ; so I said, " Ten guineas, but as you tell 
me your means are limited, if your husband sends 
me five it will do." She thanked me warmly for 
my liberality and said that a cheque would be 
sent that night ; but it did not come, and a few 
days later I saw in the paper that the couple had 
sailed for India. I never heard from them. 
Comment needless. 

But there is a reverse side. Some months after 
the foregoing incident occurred, an Australian 
lady came under my care. She was in very deli- 
cate health, and she told me her husband would 
come for her when she was fit to return. She 
continued under my care for a good while, and 
when her husband arrived he was greatly pleased 
at finding her health so much improved. A day 
was fixed for their departure, and still nothing 
was said about paying me for my attendance, and 
it was not till I was actually saying good-bye, on 
the day before they were to start, that her husband 

" By the way, I am in your debt ; how much 
is it ? " 

I replied that I really hardly knew; that I kept 

Further Retrospect 

no books, but that it could not be less than five- 
and-twenty guineas. 

" Twenty-five guineas ! " he repeated after me. 
"You would not do for the colonies. Well, I will 
fill up the cheque for fifty, anyway," and so he 
did. Nor was it more than fair remuneration, 
but I could never bear that it should be said I 
tried to get as much as I could from a patient, 
and in such a case as this always named a lesser 
sum than I was entitled to. I was, however, 
particular in naming a sufficient fee when asked to 
go long distances to the country, because leaving 
town is a serious matter for a man who sees 
numerous patients during his consulting hours ; 
his absence disappoints them and injures himself. 

But the amount of money received is not, with 
the great majority of medical men, that which 
gives them a pleasure at all equivalent to the 
gratification they feel at the satisfactory termina- 
tion of a serious illness, and the knowledge that 
they have been the instruments of saving life, or at 
least restoring to health, some who might other- 
wise have remained sufferers. The ingratitude 
of a patient cannot destroy that ! 

One cannot help smiling, even after the lapse of 
many years, when one remembers how one gained 
credit when little was due, and contrasts this with 
the occasions when one gained little or none 
when much was deserved. A patient often 
fancies that some trifling symptom is of great 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

importance, and if relieved by simple means 
magnifies the " cure." Thus, when I was just 
beginning to get some consulting practice, a 
medical friend sent a lady to me who fancied she 
needed the advice of a specialist. Before describ- 
ing her symptoms she informed me that she had 
been under the care of Sir James Simpson, of 
Edinburgh, and that she had consulted other 
eminent medical men without deriving benefit. 
Having examined her carefully I came to the 
conclusion that she had no real disease, but that 
probably she lived too well and took too little 
exercise, and prescribed for her a simple medicine 
consisting mainly of a bitter infusion, containing a 
good proportion of Epsom salts. I thought no 
more about her, but after the lapse of a few weeks 
1 received a letter from the doctor who had sent 
her, asking me to read a letter he enclosed. This 
was from the lady he had recommended to me. 
In it she wrote to this effect : " You know I have 
been with Sir James Simpson, and with So-and-so 
in Paris and Berlin, but none of them have done 
me any good except Dr. Atthill ! " 

No medical man can be successful who fails to 
gain the confidence of his patients, and no patient 
can be satisfactory who does not trust him. But 
even confidence can be carried so far as to produce 
unexpected and inconvenient results as happened 
to myself more than once markedly so in 
one case. 


Further Retrospect 

I had arranged to take my annual holiday when, 
on the day preceding that on which I was to 
start, I was asked to see a patient on whom I 
found that a serious operation must be performed 
at once. So I postponed my departure and 
operated without delay. She made such an 
excellent recovery that at the end of a week I 
went off, leaving her under the care of the gentle- 
man who had brought her to me, telling him 
that she did not need any special treatment, and 
that he could allow her to sit up soon. 

I was absent for nearly a month, and on my 
return went at once to inquire for her. To my 
surprise I found her in bed. 1 asked her, had she 
been out to drive ? " No." Had she walked out? 
" No." So by degrees I learned that she had not 
even sat up in the bed yet ; and at last discovered 
that as I had after the operation told her she 
must lie on her back for a time, . and had 
forgotten to say to her before starting that she 
might change her posture, she had refused to do 
so till I gave her leave ; so on her back she lay 
for the whole time I was away. She was one of 
those grateful patients. She went home and I 
never saw her again, but for many years every 
Christmas brought me a pretty card painted by 
herself, the receipt of which always gave me 
much pleasure. 

As a rule the sick-room is not a place to cause 
a smile, still it can hardly be avoided sometimes. 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

I had as a patient a nice old lady. I never heard 
her exact age, but her younger sister who lived 
with her told me she herself was seventy-five. 

One day calling to see her she had become 
virtually bedridden she complained of her mouth 
being sore, and as she made difficulties about my 
looking at it, I asked, had she any false teeth ? 
To which she replied quite tartly, " There is 
nothing artificial about me ! " As I left the house 
her companion, an elderly lady who had lived 
with her for thirty-five years, went downstairs 
with me. To her I said, 

" Is it possible that those nice white teeth 
Mrs. has are her own ? " 

" I do not know," was the reply, " but every now 
and then she will send me out of the room, saying 
she wants her sister to do something for her, and 
I think it must be to have her teeth taken out 
and cleaned." 

A few days later the old lady told me she had 
" some false teeth." On the day when I asked 
about the teeth, I saw in consultation another 
very old lady who was dying of cancer. Her 
daughter had told me that her mother was long 
past eighty ; that she was very exacting and diffi- 
cult to please ; in fact she was one of those 
querulous old women who render the life of 
those about them almost intolerable. Having 
examined her, she addressed me to this effect : " I 
hope you will be able to do something for me. I 


Further Retrospect 

do not like to think of those young things being 
left without someone to care for them (her 
youngest daughter had told me that she was 
forty-eight). I am getting old.; I suppose I must 
be nearly seventy." 

It is strange that old people on the verge of 
the grave should try to conceal the fact that they 
have false teeth, or to deceive as to their age ; yet 
this is common, and by no means confined to the 
female sex. I rather feel that old age is some- 
thing to be proud of. One thing I have dreaded 
since old age has overtaken me, that is, that I 
should become a helpless, useless invalid, perhaps 
as querulous and as exacting as some of those I 
have known say, as an old lady I knew of, who 
would not allow the window shutters to be opened 
in the room in which she lay bedridden for many 
months, and yet compelled a grandchild to sit 
nearly the whole day in the dark, grumbling if, 
when she went for a walk, she was not back in 
half an hour. No wonder I fear lest I should 
become one of such ! and, alas ! they are many. 
To me sudden death has always seemed the most 
merciful termination of life, and I could never 
join in that sentence of the Litany in which we 
are asked to pray "from sudden death, Good Lord, 
deliver us," though, of course, to the relations and 
friends the sudden death of a loved one is a terrible 

When I was young, every sick person was 
I.D. 225 p 

Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

bled from the arm or covered with leeches ; 
every bed was surrounded with curtains which 
were drawn round it at night, and kept 
particularly close in the case of illness. The 
night air was commonly supposed to be 
unwholesome and laden with noxious miasma. 
As a young practitioner I must have held 
ideas somewhat in advance of my day, for I 
recollect trying to persuade an old lady I was 
attending that at least in a city the air at night 
must be purer than by day, because then there 
would be less in it, but I could not induce her 
to allow a window in the house to remain open 
at night. One wonders how so many patients 
in bygone days recovered, and why consump- 
tion is so vastly more prevalent now than 

No one can be a greater advocate for pure air 
than I am, but I cannot shut my eyes to the 
fact that the admission of it into rooms is 
often so unwisely arranged that serious and, 
indeed, fatal illness follows from exposure to 
draughts of cold air from open windows this 
specially in the case of persons enfeebled by 
illness or old age. The human body will bear 
with impunity much cold if the individual be 
in fairly good health, and without shelter, even 
in inclement weather, will remain well ; but 
many of these same people will contract attacks 
of a serious nature, when housed, from 


Further Retrospect 

exposure to draughts from windows and open 
doors ; and many lives are lost nowadays in 
consequence of ill-regulated ventilation. The 
human mind seems unable to avoid running into 



A new generation of doctors Little changes, but examples of a great 
revolution Changes at home and abroad State of the country 
districts of Ireland Guidance of affairs not in our hands Death- 
bed scenes "I never thought death would be like this" An 
indelible impression An answer to prayer I did my best. 

I HAVE outlived all my professional con- 
temporaries at least, all of whom I have 
any knowledge. A new generation of 
physicians and surgeons occupy the places we 
once filled. Not a few of these were pupils of 
mine in bygone days ; better men, too, without 
doubt, than their predecessors. Their education 
has been vastly superior to that we received, and 
their successes deservedly greater. But the 
progress of medical science is not yet stayed ; 
they too, like us, must be content to be learners, 
or they will fall behindhand in the race. So, too, 
it is with other professions. 

These truisms are obvious to every one, but 
are there not some of us in a great degree 
blind to the fact that, after all, these changes 
which we notice in our own little spheres are 
but examples of the great revolution going on 
with rapid strides over the whole world ? The 


Last Recollections 

vast change in the social condition of the 
European nations can hardly have escaped the 
notice of the most careless. The North 
America of my childhood consisted of the 
" United States, " occupying only that part of the 
continent east of the Mississippi, of two provinces 
named Upper and Lower Canada just struggling 
for existence, and a half-savage State called 
Mexico of which almost nothing was known. 
Africa was an unknown country, save only that 
" the Cape " was a place ships called at on their 
four or five months' voyages to or from India. 
Egypt, under the sway of the Porte, was a terra 
incognita beyond Alexandria, though a stray 
European might occasionally reach Cairo. 
Australia was only spoken of as a place convicts 
were sent to. As to New Zealand, I never 
heard it named. What Canada, Australia, and 
New Zealand are now every child knows. 

But how many of us realise the revolution 
which has taken place in our own country 
within the recollection of those still living. 
Agricultural England, the source of pride, as 
well as the backbone of the nation during the 
wars arising out of the French Revolution, has 
fallen not alone from its high estate, but as a 
source of national wealth agriculture has ceased to 
exist. The population which lived on the land 
has migrated to the towns and now works in 
factories. The old country families are steadily, 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

if gradually, disappearing, to be replaced to some 
extent by those fortunate enough to accumulate 
wealth as manufacturers or traders. The 
yeoman has disappeared, and cannot be replaced. 

In Ireland the revolution is even more marked. 
As a result of the Land Acts, the landed gentry 
are vanishing rapidly ; in another generation 
none will exist. Whether this total extinction 
will be an unmixed good remains to be proved. 
That many of that class were in the past 
improvident, careless and wanting in the qualities 
which would make them useful in their sphere 
is certain ; a few were harsh towards their 
tenants, and some were unjust ; but the vast 
majority, on the other hand, were kind, generous 
landlords, anxious for the welfare of those under 
them, and spending their incomes at home. The 
loss of such must be an injury to the community. 

This change in the state of the country 
districts of Ireland has brought about a serious 
alteration in the class of medical men whose 
duty it is to take charge of the sick poor. 
Formerly, the selection of a doctor for a 
dispensary district lay in a great degree in the 
hands of the resident gentry, and they, as I can 
testify, exercised great care in the selection of 
the candidate to fill the vacant post. Now it 
has passed into the hands of the Poor Law 
Guardians, men unfortunately often incapable, 
from defective education, of choosing wisely, or 


Last Recollections 

who are wholly influenced in favour of someone 
brought forward by a local politician who cares 
for nothing except the promotion of his influence. 
The result is that unfit men are very liable to be 
elected, with disastrous results to the poor, who 
are helpless. 

Further, if I read not the signs of the times 
wrongly, tolerance will not exist in Ireland, 
either as respects religion or politics. I look 
with much apprehension on the future, though I 
shall not live to see it. But the guidance of the 
affairs of the nation is not in our hands any 
more than the regulation of times and seasons. 
Believing as I do that my path through life has 
been made plain to me, and my every step 
directed, I in like manner believe that the 
destinies of our nation will be guided by the all- 
wise providence of the Almighty. 

I had, of course, my share of the sad and 
pathetic cases, which cannot fail to distress the 
physician, who often knows what is hidden from 
even near relatives, and whose duty it is to 
reveal nothing of what he sees or of what comes 
to his knowledge. The bodily health may be 
restored, but a broken heart cannot be healed, nor 
a career, commenced with well-grounded hopes 
of success but blighted by folly or sin, be 
re-established on its former footing. But in 
each and every case death too often closes the 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

The doctor is but seldom present when the 
soul departs to the Lord Who gave it. When 
that event is evidently in hand he can do no 
good and his presence is seldom desired. Of 
so-called deathbed repentance I have known no 
instance. Of those who died of chronic diseases, 
especially consumptives, the great majority are 
hopeful to an extraordinary degree, and death 
often comes to them suddenly and unexpectedly ; 
and when acute cases end fatally, the mental 
faculties in the vast majority of instances are 
obscured some time before death comes in my 
opinion, the act of a merciful God. 

I have ever believed that as the tree falls, so 
does it lie that be it man or woman, when the 
soul departs, it goes to the place they have 
prepared for themselves. The heaven the 
Christian believes in would be no place of 
happiness to the drunkard, the gambler, the 
dishonest, or the adulterer. 

But I have stood by the deathbed of those 
for whom death had no terror. That of my old 
master, Mr. Collis, was a supremely happy one. 
He died of suffocative bronchitis, a most distress- 
ing affection. I called to inquire for him the 
afternoon of his last day on earth, and hearing I 
was in the house, he expressed a wish to see me. 

On entering his room he beckoned me to his 
bedside. He was propped up, and breathing with 
great difficulty. So great was his distress that 


Last Recollections 

great beads of perspiration covered his forehead. 
On coming close he said to me, speaking with 
difficulty, " I sent for you because I wish you 
to see how a Christian can die." I thought 
then, and I pray now, that my end may be as 
his was, full of hope and joy. 

Some years later I stood by another death- 
bed, that of a very different man. He was an 
old friend, and had been very kind to me. He 
was paralysed, and could only walk a few steps. 
His life had been a varied one. First, a clerk 
in his father's office, who was a London merchant. 
That position he detested, and he longed to be 
a soldier. He adored his mother, but had no 
love for his father, who was a martinet and, 
he used to declare to me> jealous of him because 
of his mother's partiality. This was the time 
of the Peninsular War, and he told me he used 
always to sleep on the floor to inure himself 
to the hardship and discomfort incident to a 
soldier's life. 

At last his father yielded to his importunity, 
and he was gazetted as an ensign in the 52nd 
Regiment, and as a lieutenant was present with 
that regiment at Waterloo. After the peace 
he was put on half pay, and remained on it 
till the day of his death. At first he hoped 
that he would be gazetted to some regiment, 
but time passing on without this being done, 
he went to Spain as representative of his father's 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

house, and lived there for many years a gay 
and, I fear, a somewhat dissipated life. He did 
not marry till he was quite an old man, and his 
religious opinions were of the vaguest description. 
Being a kind-hearted and, indeed, generous man, 
he gave freely to the needy, but only to those 
whom he believed to be worthy of it. 

On one occasion we had a rather lengthened 
conversation on religious matters, and I well 
remember his saying, in reply to some observa- 
tion of mine, " Well, God is good and merciful, 
and I believe that on the Judgment Day He will 

say of me, ' Well, has done a great deal that is 

wrong, but he helped So-and-so in their troubles.' " 
That, as I could understand it, was his hope for 
the hereafter. He often spoke of death, and 
that he did not fear it, and was ready to meet it 
whenever it came. Above all, he regretted that 
he did not meet a hero's death in the battlefield. 
Well, he met with a trivial accident, which, in 
his unhealthy state, produced blood-poisoning. 
I sat by his bedside after sunset the night before 
he died. He gave me some directions about his 
funeral and his affairs, and then dozed off. He 
slept quietly for half an hour, then roused, 
turned in his bed, and in an undertone, as if 
speaking to himself, said, " Death ! is this death ? 
I never thought it would be like this." I was 
startled ; he spoke with such solemnity and, to 
me it seemed, with dread. 


Last Recollections 

Those were his last articulate words ; he 
became comatose, and died the next day. His 
death was painless yet how different from the 
joy felt by my old master, though the latter's 
sufferings were extreme ! 

I could not, were I inclined to do so, enumerate 
the many occasions on which I felt sure that the 
Lord my God cared for me and answered my 
prayer, sinful man though I be. One occasion, 
more than forty years ago, is indelibly impressed on 
my memory. I had been greatly depressed, 
partly in consequence of the illness of a loved 
member of my family, and from the fact that for 
some time I had very little to do and, as it 
seemed, had ceased to earn an income that would 
enable me to meet our daily wants. Sunday 
came round, and as I sat waiting for the morning 
service to commence, I opened my prayer book 
at the 37th Psalm > verse 5, in which occur the 
well-known words, " Commit thy way unto the 
Lord ; and put thy trust in Him ; and He shall 
bring it to pass.*' 

I felt at the time as if this was specially 
addressed to me, and felt quite cheered. The 
confirmation of my belief that the message was 
sent to me came speedily. 

On reaching my house after service I found a 
medical man waiting for me for the purpose of 
getting me to see a patient of his who was very 
ill. He further told me he wished to transfer 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

the patient to me. Of course I gladly consented, 
and on our way to the patient's house he told me 
more about her. She was, I found afterwards, 
a very beautiful young woman, the wife of an 
officer, but possessed of a very violent temper, 
and a most difficult patient to manage. On the 
previous day her husband had hinted that he 
would have to leave home, and on this she had 
become so excited that he dare not mention the 
subject again, so had decided, after I had seen 
her with him, to go away without saying any- 
thing. She would not know until the following 
morning of his departure, when I was to call. 

I found the patient very ill indeed, but our 
visit passed off very satisfactorily. As she lived 
some distance off in the country, I started to 
see her early the next morning, to be told on my 
arrival by the servant that her mistress would 
not see me, and that she had sent a groom some 
time before with a letter telling me not to come. 
I told the maid to say to her mistress that I had 
not received the letter, and that as I had come 
so far I hoped she would see me. I had to wait 
some time before I received an answer, but was 
at length shown up. 

The patient received me most ungraciously, 
but her invectives were directed chiefly against 
her previous doctor, whose conduct she denounced 
in unmeasured terms. 

After a little time I got in a word, but at first 

Last Recollections 

she refused to answer a question or give me any 
information as to her state ; then, on my saying I 
was sorry that she would not allow me to try to 
relieve her, she suddenly burst into tears, saying 
that she was in such great pain she could hardly 
bear it. Finally she allowed me to examine her, 
and on doing so I felt no doubt as to the truth of 
her statement, and in a few minutes we were 
friends. I then told her that the application of 
a few leeches would not only relieve the pain, 
but also materially accelerate her recovery ; she 
agreed that they should be applied, but only on 
the condition that this was done by myself. 
Neither nurse nor chemist would she allow to do 
it, so it was settled that her carriage should be 
sent for me in the evening. The leeches gave 
her great relief, and the next morning I had the 
satisfaction of finding a marked improvement in 
her condition. From that time on she was a 
most obedient patient, though her convalescence 
was tedious and trying. 

I did not attain professional success from the 
possession of any special talents, save industry, if 
that be called such, and that, indeed, seemed to 
me to have been acquired. In my case, as I believe 
it is with others, an opening was made for me ; my 
way pointed out, I did my best in the position 
assigned to me, always trying to learn. The 
man who believes in his own attainments rarely 


Recollections of an Irish Doctor 

My axiom has always been, " Whatsoever thy 
hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might." 
That, and the verse already quoted, " Commit thy 
way unto the Lord ; and put thy trust in Him ; 
and He shall bring it to pass," containing a pre- 
cept and a promise, I would earnestly commend 
to every one who may chance to read these, most 
probably the last, words of an old man who has 
seen much of the cares and trials incidental to 
all ranks and to all degrees, in this brief life on 
earth, where grief and sorrow are ever present. 


A 000 031 703 2